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Election 2020: Nevada County certifies its vote

The Nevada County elections offices on Wednesday, Nov. 25, certified its vote. 65,800 out of 75,123 registered voters cast ballots, or 87.59%.

Town of Truckee Town Council, Full Term, Two will be seated

  • Dow Costa: 2,645
  • Marcy Dolan: 1,807
  • John “Jack” Forbes: 727
  • Frank J. Bernhard: 1,255
  • Courtney Henderson: 4,979
  • Lindsay S. Romack: 4,143
  • Nicholas J. Sielchan: 403

Town of Truckee Town Council, Short Term, One will be seated

  • Carla Embertson: 3,504
  • Jan Zabriskie: 4,544

Truckee Tahoe Airport District, Full Term, Three will be seated

  • Ken Aronson: 3,352
  • David Diamond: 6,040
  • Leigh Golden: 3,192
  • Teresa O’Dette: 3,081
  • Rick Stephens: 5,061

Measure K — whether to adopt a 2% increase in the town’s transient occupancy tax

Yes: 8,199

No: 1,505

Truckee Donner Public Utility District, Full Term, Three will be seated

  • Joseph R Aguera: 3,729
  • Jeff Bender: 5,107
  • Bob Ellis: 3,582
  • Kim Harris: 5,150
  • Cathy Stewart: 2,267

Truckee Donner Recreation & Park District, Full Term, Two will be seated

  • Jason Hansford: 5,319
  • Lori Marquette: 4,338
  • Mark Tanner: 4,765

State and federal races

State Senate, District 1

Pamela Dawn Swartz: 218,606

Brian Dahle: 323,863

State Assembly, District 1

Elizabeth L Betancourt: 101,715

Megan Dahle: 145,662

1st Congressional District

Audrey Denney: 153,372

Doug LaMalfa: 202,860

Election update: Measure K passes

With 9,795 ballots counted out of a possible 11,356 registered voters, Measure K has been overwhelmingly approved by Truckee voters.

As of the latest election update, released by the county on Tuesday, the measure, which will increase the town’s transient occupancy tax from 10% to 12%, has received 8,018 votes in favor versus 1,469 votes against.

The results are unofficial and incomplete until certified.

Measure K’s 2% increase in transient occupancy tax is projected to provide $700,000 annually and would go toward affordable housing, preparing for wildfires and other natural disasters, along with acquiring and permanently preserving natural open spaces.

The measure was endorsed by several local businesses and organizations, including Tahoe Mountain Sports, the Truckee Fire Protection District Board, Truckee Town Council, Visit Truckee, Sierra Nevada Alliance, Sierra Business Council, and the Truckee Donner Land Trust.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2643.

Special district boards take shapes

Jeff Bender is the frontrunner in the race for the Truckee Donner Public Utility District board.

Bender received 239 votes from Placer County and 2,508 votes from Nevada County, for a total of 2,747 votes.

Kim Harris’ Placer County votes totaled 227. Combined with her Nevada County votes, she has a total of 2,617 votes.

Bob Ellis and Joseph “Joe” Aguera vie for the third available position on the board.

As of Thursday morning, the counties recorded 122 votes from Placer County and 1,799 votes from Nevada County, giving Aguera 1,921 votes total. Ellis receive a total of 1,905 votes from district members in both counties.

Aguera currently is beating Ellis by a 16-vote margin.

The top three vote-getters will be seated on the board. The vote total is incomplete and unofficial.

Cathy Stewart received the fewest votes from either county — 164 in Placer County and 1,100 in Nevada.

District Clerk Shanna Kuhlemier said the Placer County voters are “a much smaller group” than that of Nevada County. Kuhlemier said the results won’t be official until the district gets a certified canvas, which is likely to happen the first week in December.

Kuhlemier said her multi-county jurisdiction opted to add their election to the November ballot in Placer and Nevada County to save money.

Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District

Incumbents Mark Tanner and Jason Hansford appear to have secured the two available positions on the Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District.

Hansford led with 2,466 votes from Nevada County, and 274 votes from Placer County, giving him a total of 2,740.

Hansford said he looks forward to returning for another term to offer continuity to the district as the nation transitions out of the COVID-19 era.

“Getting back to normal operating procedures is the first order of business,” Hansford said.

Hansford said regardless of surges in the pandemic, his board maintains focus on providing services that best serve the needs of the community.

“I think it’s important for board members to have an open dialogue and be receptive to community input,” Hansford said. “Our staff do a great job and make it easy for board members to make choices.”

Tanner led the way in Placer County with 357 votes of ballots cast. Between the two counties, Tanner received 2,517 votes total.

Tanner said he feels fortunate to continue his service for district.

“I look forward to seeing through the completion of the Downtown Community Park revitalization project that got interrupted due to COVID and helping the district and community through these tough times and bring forward new programs and activities to unite and invigorate the community,” Tanner said.

Tanner said he is looking forward to establishing stability and balance between the district’s finances and facility maintenance.

“(I’m) looking to opportunities to add to our base,” Tanner said. “I’m really looking forward to 2021 and beyond.”

Lori Marquette received 258 votes from Placer County and 1,977 votes from Nevada County, bringing her total to 2,235.

North Tahoe Public Utility District

The North Tahoe Public Utility District operates out of Tahoe City. All 3,683 of the voters who participated in the special district’s 2020 election hail from Placer County. Five candidates — two of them incumbents — vied for four positions on the board.

Incumbent Sarah Coolidge garnered the majority with 1,110 votes.

“I am honored that North Shore recognized the value of what we have accomplished at the NTPUD and that they voted to send me back for four more years,” Coolidge said. “It is exciting to be given the opportunity to solidify our infrastructure work and continue our collaborations with other local agencies, all of which supports a vibrant local community.”

Coolidge said her appreciation for the election’s outcome extends to the results of many other races in the area.

“I am also eager to advocate for advancing local leadership development so that our elections continue to foster strength throughout the Tahoe-Truckee region,” Coolidge said

Coolidge said she is grateful that the board opted into open elections — as opposed to challengers targeting a specific incumbent — in 2016.

“We decided on open election years ago in order to get people more involved as opposed to fighting against each other for a seat,” Coolidge said. “If the people want someone new, let them vote for it.”

Danielle Hughes is a newcomer to the board, and received 893 votes. Hughes is the capital program manager at the Tahoe Transportation District. Her campaign website indicates Hughes’ career trajectory has given her professional experience working on water quality, restoration, recreation, technology and transportation.

Coolidge said she believes the board will continue to work well together with its newest member.

“We’ve had a wonderful board in the past and I believe we will continue to have one,” Coolidge said. “I respect all the education and work Danielle is doing, so I’m sure she’ll be a great addition.”

Pending election certification, incumbent Phil Thompson secured the third available seat on the board with 855 votes, or 23.21% of the district’s support.

Tim Ferrell received 821 votes, currently losing the election by 34 votes.

Coolidge said the board makes crucial financial decisions to ensure the district’s infrastructure is safe and replaced in a timely manner.

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer for The Union, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun.

Incumbents appear to keep seats in state, congressional races

As of Thursday, it looked as though the incumbents would retain their seats in the state Assembly and Senate, as well as in Congress. While all three challengers beat the incumbents in Nevada County, those percentages were reversed districtwide.

State Assembly District 1

The candidates facing off for the state Assembly District 1 seat both prioritized fire prevention and forest management, as well as broadband access.

Megan Dahle, the Republican incumbent, sought reelection against the same contender she faced in a 2019 special election, Elizabeth Betancourt. Dahle won the seat after her husband, Brian Dahle, vacated the position.

As of Thursday, Dahle was leading with 103,033 votes to Betancourt’s 73,305, or 58.4% to 41.6%. As with the other races, those numbers were flipped for Nevada County, with Betancourt at 17,280 votes to Dahle at 12,489 — 58% to 42%. The two women were in a virtual dead heat in Placer County, with Betancourt leading by 15 votes.

“I am incredibly humbled and very grateful for the support of my constituents and their trust in me to represent them,” Dahle said. “We worked really hard to reach out and be available.”

Dahle pledged to continue to highlight issues of concern to the region, saying, “I will continue to be the voice of the North State.”

“It certainly did not go the way I hoped,” Betancourt said, but noted that she performed far better in Placer County than she ever had before.

“It’s the will of the voters, that’s the way we determine things in our democracy,” she said. “But I am disappointed that people didn’t notice that (Megan Dahle) didn’t show up, not to candidate forums, … she didn’t make any public appearances, really.”

Betancourt said it’s not all “doom and gloom,” however.

“We held on to the over 40 percent, record breaking numbers we had last year,” she said. “I’m pleased with the attention this region has gotten. We’ve made real progress.”

State Senate District 1

District 1 state Sen. Brian Dahle, who won his seat in a 2019 special election, headed into the general election as the front runner after getting the most votes in the March primary. Dahle, a Republican, again faced Democratic challenger Pamela Swartz, a Nevada County resident, and was looking to serve his first full term as a state senator.

Nevada County’s results did not reflect the overall vote, with Swartz beating Dahle locally 16,663 to 13,154 — 55.9% to 44.1%. Districtwide, however, Dahle prevailed with 214,422 votes to Swartz’s 159,758 — 57.3% to 42.7%.

“It’s just been a crazy year,” Dahle said Wednesday. “I’ll be termed out in 2024, this is my last race. It’s nice to have four more years and be able to do the job.”

Dahle noted he has served at the county and state level for nearly 24 years.

“I’m going to do my job and focus on my constituents,” he said. “There are still a lot of things I am concerned about.”

Swartz, a Nevada City resident, said the election outcome was expected.

“While it was not a surprise, it still stings,” she said. “Not because of my ego, but because the people in our district are suffering. We have a lot of issues and I don’t see how Dahle is spearheading efforts to address those issues, I don’t see any kind of advocacy at the state level.“

Swartz said she will continue to advocate for the North State, adding, “Despair coming out of defeat is not an option. I’m gonna fight like crazy.”

4th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Republican U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock is leading his Democratic challenger Brynne Kennedy by 173,324 to 154,090 votes, or 52.9% to 47.1%.

Again, the numbers are flipped when only Nevada County is considered.

Kennedy in Nevada County took 3,572 votes to McClintock’s 1,070, or 76.9% to 23.1%.

Kennedy, a tech industry entrepreneur, has said she is poised to lead the district through the pandemic. She’s spent the past 15 years in the private sector, with most of that time at a company trying to connect people to good jobs.

She said her experience with the private sector — working with people who have diverse views and an obligation to owners, shareholders and others — could change the political sphere.

McClintock has said through a campaign manager that he ran for Congress to bring fiscal sanity to government, and ensure natural resources benefit people and their community.

McClintock pointed to the four years he chaired the Federal Lands Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee as a sign of his commitment to financial responsibility and providing access to local lands.

1st Congressional District

On Nov. 3, Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa once again faced Audrey Denney, the top vote-getter among the Democrats in the March primary. Denney ran against LaMalfa in 2018 and lost by a 10% margin, but the congressman for the first time lost two counties in that election — Nevada and Butte.

This time around, Denney beat LaMalfa locally with 14,429 votes to 10,969, or 56.8% to 43.2%. Districtwide, however, LaMalfa again had taken a 10% lead, with 149,101 votes to 119,423 for Denney — 55.5% to 45.5%. As in 2018, Denney also took a lead over LaMalfa in Butte County.

But even though the Associated Press called the election for LaMalfa early Wednesday afternoon, Denney did not appear ready to concede, according to the Redding Record-Searchlight.

She could not be reached for comment, but posted on Facebook around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday that LaMalfa had not yet won the election.

“We are hearing updates from our elections offices that there are huge numbers of unprocessed ballots,” Denney posted. “We anticipate at least another 70k votes to be counted across the district, probably even more than that.”

LaMalfa, R-Richvale, also could not be reached for comment.

Liz Kellar is a reporter for The Union newspaper in Grass Valley, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun. Contact her at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

Frontrunners revealed in Truckee Tahoe Airport District Board race

David Diamond appears poised to take a seat on the Truckee Tahoe Airport District Board, according to election results.

Diamond received 2,771 votes in Nevada County, and 2,905 votes in Placer County, for a total of 5,676 votes.

Incumbent Rick Stephens received 2,370 votes from Nevada County and 2,538 votes from Placer County, bringing his total to 4,908.

Incumbent and serving Board President Teresa O’Dette received 3,358 total votes. Ken Aronson got 2,981, and Leigh Golden received 2,795.

The top three vote-getters will be seated on the board.

Diamond said he remains “cautiously optimistic” as votes are still being counted between counties for the special district, as winners have not been officially announced.

“I haven’t posted anything on social media because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Diamond said.

Diamond heard Dave Mencarelli on 101.5 FM Truckee Tahoe Radio announce that he was in first for the race from the open door of his car as he pulled signs from the side of the road on election night.

Diamond said if the election’s final results align with the current projections, he is looking forward to being on a board cohesive enough to accomplish a lot over the next four years.

“When I think of the five people who at this point in time appear to make up the board — including Kat Rohlf — this could be one of the most community-focused, productive airport boards we’ve ever seen,” Diamond said. “I’m really excited.”

The fifth person on the board is Mary Heatherington, who didn’t have to run for election this year. Lisa Wallace didn’t seek reelection.

Diamond said the board he anticipates joining is made up of creative problem solvers and he is honored to join their contingent on behalf of the community.

Diamond said he was surprised to receive the most votes out of any candidate who ran in the race, but his commitment to solving regional problems and communicating transparently with the district’s constituents is paramount.

ACTIVE BOARD

Stephens said he used the same campaign signs in 2020 as he did in 2016. Similarly, Stephens’ concerns with aviation safety, noise and annoyance and community support remain constant.

Stephens said navigating his campaign amidst the pandemic and COVID-19-related concerns was challenging, but the board has remained active over the past few months.

Stephens said the airport board not only appointed a replacement for pilot and former chair Jim Morrison, who left in August, but secured funding for local conservation efforts.

“It was a million, but at the last board meeting we agreed to put a half million dollars into the Tahoe Donner Land Trust,” Stephens said.

Almost 30 acres south of the Truckee River, called Truckee Springs, was originally slated to be housing, Stephens said.

“Now it will be open space, and we’ll be able to run Legacy Trail from Brockway Road to where the Truckee River turns south toward Squaw,” Stephens said. “The land trust has put a sign on property — ‘Coming soon: Nothing.’”

O’Dette said she is grateful a pilot will be joining the board, but is not likely to celebrate until the election is certified — a process that could take about 30 days.

“I’m super excited David Diamond won, because I depend on a pilot’s voice on the board because it’s valuable,” O’Dette said.

O’Dette did not run a campaign this election cycle and reiterated that as an elected representative to the district, she has “no more agenda other than to do great things.”

“With the five people looking like they’ll probably be on the board, I’m optimistic we’ll get some great things done,” O’Dette said.

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff write for The Union, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun.

Frontrunners emerge in Truckee Town Council race

A stream of voters continued to trickle into Truckee’s two election sites on Tuesday, marking what officials called the busiest of four days of voting.

Many casting their votes in Truckee named the presidential election as their top reason for turning out, while several others cast their ballots for the first time.

“There’s a lot of issues going on lately,” said first-time voter Megan Dawson, a registered voter from Discovery Bay and a student in Reno. “So I think it’s important for there to be some say, especially from younger generations.”

Another first-time voter, Shannon Sundale said she cast her ballot due to the current administration.

“I know I can’t do much, but I’d like to do my part the best that I can, so I voted for the best person I thought,” said Sundale. “I definitely came out because the house is in shambles.”

Annalycia Gutierrez, whose father immigrated to the area from Mexico, said she came out to vote in hopes of change for minorities.

“I believe the world desperately needs change,” said Gutierrez. “There hasn’t been a lot of change for any minorities. That’s what brought me here — my family, people who don’t feel safe.”

While many voters were compelled to turnout because of the presidential election, locally there were two four-year seats, and one two-year seat on Truckee Town Council that were being contested by a total of nine candidates.

With 4,717 votes of a possible 11,356 votes counted, several candidates have emerged as frontrunners to claim the three open seats on the Truckee Town Council.

Results are still unofficial, as 41.54% of the possible vote has been tallied thus far. In comparison, the 2018 election saw nearly 80% of possible local voters turn out to cast their ballots.

All votes haven’t yet been counted in this year’s election. The results are unofficial and incomplete. The next vote tally release is expected today.

4-year seats

Courtney Henderson has 2,444 votes, and Lindsay Romack sits in second place with 1,983 votes. If they hold the first and second-place spots, they’ll be seated on the council.

“I’m really looking forward to serving our community and I feel incredibly grateful that so many people have put their faith in me to do just that,” said Henderson. “A huge part of my campaign focused on listening to our community, and I intend to keep doing that and really working to ensure we are building a healthy community and a resilient future for all of us who live and work in Truckee.”

Henderson has a background that includes roughly 15 years’ experience in the public health and energy sector, which has included stops throughout the U.S., India and Africa. She is also on the technical advisory group for the Sierra Business Council.

Romack is in position to claim the other Town Council seat.

Romack has lived in the area for 16 years, and currently works as a district director for Placer County. She has past experience as a member of the municipal advisory council in Olympic Valley and currently is on the Mountain Housing Council.

Dow Costa sits in third place with 1,209 votes. Marcy Dolan is in fourth place with 839 votes, Frank Bernhard is in fifth place with 582 votes, Jack Forbes is in sixth place with 346 votes, and Nicholas Sielchan is in seventh place with 180 votes.

2-year seat

In the race for Truckee Town Council’s two-year seat, Jan Zabriskie holds more than a 600-vote lead over Carla Embertson.

Zabriskie has claimed 2,241 votes at this point, while Embertson has garnered 1,578 of the votes.

“There’s still enough room for that to switch,” said Zabriskie on holding a lead. “I would just love to have enough votes tallied that I could feel comfortable … I’m cautiously optimistic, but with still at least half of the votes to be counted, we just have to wait and see.”

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2643.

Nevada County vote centers now open

More than half of Nevada County registered voters have returned their ballots as of Thursday, with only days left before election day.

For the 45% of registered county voters who haven’t, seven vote centers throughout the county will open today.

More than 64% percent of the county’s registered Democrats ­— over 18,500­ — have already voted. Over 51% of the county’s registered Republicans ­— more than 12,500 — have voted.

Nevada County has more than 15,000 voters registered as no party preference or decline to state, more than 7,000 of which have already cast their votes.

If people have not already registered to vote, they can still register as conditional voters at www.sos.ca.gov/elections.

Voters can track their ballots through the state’s Where’s My Ballot initiative, which gives voters updates via email, text, or call about the status of their ballot during each step of the process.

If people did not receive a ballot or need a new one, they can request a replacement ballot to pick up in person at the Eric Rood Administrative Center during early voting, or at a vote center starting today by visiting www.mynevadacounty.com/3074/Will-Call-Replacement-Ballots.

People can also request a replacement be mailed to them by calling 530-265-1298.

If people are informed by the Elections Office of a discrepancy in their ballot signature, they can use forms at www.mynevadacounty.com/3124/Missing-and-Mismatched-Signatures to cure the mistake up to two days before the election is certified. People can also update their signatures at that site.

Voter guide information is mailed along with ballots, but can also be downloaded on the county elections office website — www.mynevadacounty.com/elections.

People can sign up to be poll workers on the California Secretary of State website, or by calling the elections office at 530-265-1298.

VOTE CENTERS

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting today to Nov. 2; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 3

• Tahoe Truckee Unified School Gymnasium: 11603 Donner Pass Road, Truckee

• Truckee Public Works Bay: 10969 Stevens Lane, Truckee

• Nevada County Fairgrounds Main Event Hall: 11228 McCourtney Road, Grass Valley

• Sierra College Gymnasium: 250 Sierra College Drive, Grass Valley

• Bear River High School Gymnasium: 11130 Magnolia Road, Grass Valley

• Gold Miners Inn ballroom: 121 Bank St., Grass Valley

• Eric Rood Administrative Center, Providence Mine Conference Room: 950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City

DROP BOXES

• 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.: Grocery Outlet, 11213 Donner Pass Road, Truckee

• Open 24 hours: Truckee Town Hall, 10183 Truckee Airport Road, Truckee

• 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Save Mart, 11399 Deerfield Drive, Truckee

Starting Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• Tahoe Truckee Unified School Gym, 11603 Donner Pass Road, Truckee

• Truckee Public Works Bay, 10969 Stevens Lane, Truckee

All drop boxes are open until 8 p.m. Nov. 3, election day.

John Orona is a Staff Writer for The Union, a sister publication to the Sierra Sun. He can be reached by email at jorona@theunion.com or by phone at 530-477-4229.

Measure K would increase transient occupancy tax for Truckee

Truckee residents will be faced with the choice of whether to adopt a 2% increase in the town’s transient occupancy tax during the Nov. 3 municipal election.

Measure K is projected to generate roughly $700,000 annually for 20 years without increasing taxes on local residents. Funds would be used to provide affordable housing for low- and middle-income workers, to preserve natural open space, and for preparing the town for wildfires and other natural disasters, according tow documents filed with the Nevada County elections office.

The measure is primarily a housing initiative that will act as a funding mechanism to make it easier to build accessory dwelling units, create programs to incentivize homeowners to switch from short-term renting to long-term renting, partner with local nonprofits like the Sierra Community House to offer emergency rental assistance, for loan programs for first-time buyers, and to purchase deed restrictions for locals to sell to other locals.

Additionally, Measure K is also focused on wildfire prevention. If adopted, funds would go toward helping Truckee prepare and prevent wildfires, wildfire evacuations, emergencies, and other possible natural disasters.

Lastly, the measure will help the town acquire and preserve open space.

The measure also requires a system of fiscal accountability through annual audits, requirements that every dollar stay within Truckee, and public reviews of expenditures.

No argument was filed in opposition to the measure.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2643.

Two in race for two-year seat on Truckee Town Council

This November voters in Truckee will choose between two candidates vying for a two-year seat on town council.

Carla Embertson, 63, and Jan Zabriskie, 73, are facing off with goals of guiding the town forward during the next two years and into the future.

Carla Embertson

Embertson, who has lived in Truckee for more than two decades, is running on the platform of preserving Truckee’s past while building toward the future. She has been on the board of local nonprofits and service organizations. She’s also the president of the Glenshire Devonshire Residents Association and a member of its short-term rental committee.

“The next few years are going to be pivotal in what Truckee is going to look like for the next 20 years and I want to run to make sure that we get it right,” said Embertson. “I’m going in with no agenda other than what is best for Truckee.”

Embertson identified affordable housing as a key issue and something she plans on working on if elected.

“I want to look at all of our options, whether that be people looking for housing, people that are living here, people that are building the houses, board of realtors, our homeowners associations and make the best decision for the most people … because once we make the decision, it’s done,” said Embertson.

“We’re going to need to start being proactive and not reactive because with changes are going to come new issues. I think the council needs to listen to everyone. There’s a lot of ideas out there and a lot of people feeling like they are not being heard. Our community isn’t built around that. We’ve got a lot of people with a lot of great ideas and we need to get the best ones we can.”

Ultimately, Embertson stated that maintaining the small-town vibe of Truckee is of utmost importance, and that she wants “to preserve the community feel and the bonds of community that we have always enjoyed in the past and I want to build a future that continues that and is done with thoughtful insight.”

Jan Zabriskie

Zabriskie, who brings a background as a scientist and lawyer, has spent a number of years in government as a former planning commissioner and current member of the general plan advisory committee. He’s also on the climate action subcommittee and community character subcommittee.

“My strength lies in my experience. We are going to have three new council members. The two incumbents have only four years of experience between them,” said Zabriskie.

“I really understand how government works. Unlike my opponent, I can hit the ground running. I’ve been dealing with the issues that the town council faces now for the last three years.”

Zabriskie named wildfire safety, controlling population growth, affordable and workforce housing and “taming tourism” as some of the most important challenges the town faces.

“I’m 73. I’m old. I’m thinking about my grandkids’ future,” said Zabriskie.

“The pandemic and wildfires have increased local awareness that we need to do more to strengthen our economy, protect our environment, and improve our wildfire safety.”

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2643.

Two candidates vie for state Assembly District 1 seat

The two candidates for state Assembly District 1 of California are both farmers.

Both women prioritize fire prevention and forest management, as well as broadband access for the nine counties — including Nevada County — they aspire to represent.

Megan Dahle, the Republican incumbent in state Assembly District 1, is seeking reelection against the same contender she faced in a 2019 special election, Elizabeth Betancourt.

Dahle won the seat after her husband, Brian Dahle, vacated the position. Brian Dahle was elected to replace Ted Gaines in the state Senate after Gaines won office on the state Board of Equalization.

BETANCOURT

State Assembly District 1’s Democratic candidate Elizabeth Betancourt likes her policy like she likes her fruits and veggies — local.

The San Joaquin Valley native moved to a farm in Shasta County in 2011. Among Happy Valley’s 100-year-old “beautifully gnarled” olive trees, Betancourt grows, harvests and sells produce in her market garden.

“This year we’ve been pretty busy nourishing the community at a time when a lot of people just simply need food,” Betancourt said. “Whether they don’t have the resources or just want to buy more locally.”

Betancourt said she is running with her neighbors’ interests in mind, rather than corporations.

“I made my decision to not take corporate donations very public because I don’t think it’s appropriate for candidates in office to be in bed with corporate donors,” Betancourt said.

Betancourt said her donation average was far lower than that of her opponent, which makes her feel like she is running her campaign right.

“We all know that money buys elections, but last time we checked the average donation to my campaign was $44,” Betancourt said. “I’m pretty proud that it’s so low.”

Betancourt said 60% to 70% of her donations come from within the region.

Betancourt’s biggest financial support comes from union endorsements, the California Association of Professional Scientists and the California Federation of Teachers, to name a few.

Betancourt’s concern for the wellbeing of rural communities comes from being brought up in one herself, she said. The actual practice of caring for those communities comes in large part from her work as a socially focused scientist and an environmental policy advocate.

Betancourt has an undergraduate degree in environmental biology from UC Davis and a master’s degree in watershed science from Colorado State University. Those degrees help inform her current work for the Central Valley Water Quality Control Board.

“I have the perfect suite of experience for high-profile, high-priority needs of the region,” Betancourt said, recalling her 20 years of experience advocating and implementing environmental legislation.

Working in science helped Betancourt appreciate the fluidity of knowledge and its varied practical applications, she explained, something politicians could improve on.

“We need to create policies that respect that evolution and understanding,” Betancourt said.

Betancourt said one of her main priorities is forest health and wildfire protection, something politicians had a limited understanding of in the 1940s and 1950s.

“When people created that policy to never have a fire again on the land, they completely cut out a major player in the game — tribes,” Betancourt said. “Tribes have thousands and thousands of years of understanding how the Earth works.”

According to Betancourt, fire safety is one of four policy elements crucial to her platform.

“These are what I have heard with the most regularity from people out there, and what I’ve personally seen — they’re low hanging fruit and high priority,” Betancourt said.

Aside from fire preparedness, Betancourt said inconsistent broadband access is a quality of life issue and, during COVID-19, an education issue as well.

“We’ve been advocating for fire preparedness and broadband access for decades,” Betancourt said. “These issues are coming to a head now.”

Beyond technological outreach, Betancourt said her two other top priority issues are providing more affordable housing options and medical care to people across the state, but especially in rural areas.

Dahle

Dahle said her platform remains constant — but the urgency of those issues has grown.

According to Dahle, forest management and wildfire are top priorities.

“We need to reduce fuel sources,” Dahle said. “We need to be on the ground removing those dead and dying trees and we need to fast track it.”

Dahle said identifying the similarities between towns and comparing their fire preparedness will help the district across the board.

“I toured with (Nevada County Supervisor) Sue Hoek and we went out with Cal Fire and caldrons and we looked at the access point on Highway 20 — it’s the highway in and out of the region,” Dahle continued. “That’s what we saw in Paradise — one road in and out. We need to go into Penn Valley and say we know there’s a problem here.”

Dahle’s concern for rural children’s education is directly related to her advocacy for broadband access. Taking intentional measures to connect adolescents with the web ensures a competent workforce.

“The broadband issue is related to being able to bring in tech and trade into our high school,” Dahle said.

For Dahle, the urgency has grown as parents struggle to maintain the quality of their child’s education amidst COVID-19.

“Now more than ever parental choice is important,” Dahle said, lamenting the loss of legislative moves that allow parents to opt in to charter schools. “Some are begging to get their kids back to school.”

Dahle said she would focus her next term on helping businesses recover from economic losses experienced during the pandemic.

“We’re small business owners, we’re farmers, so I would like to focus on COVID recovery,” Dahle said. “I’m not saying it’s over, but how do we help small businesses?”

Dahle said stronger local governance will help ensure the region remains on the path to recovery from COVID-19 with strong contact tracing.

Dahle said another priority integral to her platform is ensuring public safety.

“It’s important that law enforcement and first responders have the tools they need to keep us safe,” Dahle said.

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer for The Union, a sister publication to the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at roneil@theunion.com.