Note: The following is the second in a two-part series on the MCSD candidate forum. – Ed.
Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – Climate change, policing and their personal attributes were among the topics discussed at a recent forum for candidates running for three open seats on the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors.
The forum was recorded Sept. 22 and moderated by Judy Bennett of the League of Women Voters of Humboldt County.
Candidates Scott Binder, Greg Orsini and William McBroome are vying for two four-year seats on the board. Joellen Clark-Peterson, Wesley Martin and Jimmy Vance are competing for a single two-year seat on the board. Martin and Vance did not participate in the forum.
The candidates took a minute to introduce themselves.
Binder said he was born and raised above Clam Beach. He attended local schools and graduated from Mack High in 1981. He serves as the vice chair of the McKinleyville Recreation Advisory Committee and is the Fifth District representative on the Citizens Advisory Committee on Measure Z Expenditures.
Binder has helped organize Trash Bash cleanups in McKinleyville and helped raise money to restore the a sign that sits atop Bella Vista Hill and states “Welcome to McKinleyville, Where Horses have the Right of Way.”
McBroome said he has 20 years experience working on non-profit boards and committees. He worked for nearly 15 years for the MCSD, and received certifications in water and wastewater treatment.
McBroome said he played a part in the upgrade of the district’s Wastewater Treatment Facility at Hiller Park and an upgrade to the Grant Ramey Pump Station on North Bank Road.
Orsini said he has lived in the area for 30 years and has been an active member of the community.
“I have a very unique perspective, having worked for the McKinleyville Community Services District for 30 years from entry level up to being the manager,” said Orsini, who retired in July.
Clark-Peterson was born and raised in Eureka. She served in the Peace Corps in Eastern Europe, worked for KMUD in the news department, worked for the Mateel Community Center and was the director of the Arcata Chamber of Commerce for the past five years before taking a job in May as a communications specialist for the Northern California Small Business Development Center
When asked how the district can help fight climate change, Binder said “We’re doing it right now.”
He was referring to the giant solar array that will be built at the Wastewater Treatment Plant at Hiller Park.
“I’m very much looking forward to seeing a great, big array of solar panels on an unused pond down at Hiller Park,” Binder said.
He said that the district is applying for a Prop. 68 grant that could pay for solar panels at Pierson Park.
“You’ll be seeing covered parking spaces covered with solar panels providing power for the facilities there,” Binder said, adding that the district is also hoping to get Tesla batteries for power storage.
McBroome, who used to work on the district’s water and sewer systems, said that one of the biggest expenses for the district is pumping water.
“By running everything on-peak/off-peak, which they are already doing, is very big on reducing the footprint and not using more power at a time when it’s needed elsewhere,” McBroome said.
Orsini said that people have wanted the district to run on renewable energy for years, but it never penciled out until recently.
“With the grants and the low-interest loan that we were able to get through the state revolving fund, we’re able to build the arrays at the wastewater treatment facility,” Orsini said. The array will supply 98 to 100 percent of the facility’s electrical needs.
“That will be a huge reduction in our carbon footprint,” Orsini said. He added that a community forest would allow the district to sequester carbon.
Clark-Peterson expressed delight that the district was making such progress on the solar front. “We’re doing so well,” she said. “Who would have known, maybe, that McKinleyville would be so far-seeing on this topic?”
The forum moderator asked the candidates to describe their most important experience or attribute that they would bring to the district if elected.
McBroome said he has been 20 years experience with nonprofits and working with volunteers. He said that working with volunteers is different than working with paid employees. You have to be able to communicate well and read people, he said.
Orsini said his biggest strength is building consensus. “I believe that my ability to work with other people that have differing ideas than I do and build consensus is one of my greatest attributes,” Orsini said.
Binder also emphasized his ability to work with others.
“My best attribute would be my ability to communicate with everybody,” Binder said. “I’m very active on social media and I have friends that are on the left and the right of the political aisle and I can get along well with all of them.”
Clark-Peterson said she’s good at building partnerships and sharing resources. “I have a creative and collaborative inclination,” Clark-Peterson said.
The candidates were asked whether homelessness was a problem in McKinleyville and what can be done about it.
All agreed that it’s a problem.
“Homelessness is definitely a problem in McKinleyville,” Binder said. “According to the last information I had, there are approximately 90 to 110 homeless individuals in McKinleyville right now.”
Binder said money so solve the problem will have to come from the state, but the community might be able to provide homeless people with a safe place to camp, water and sanitary facilities.
Orsini said there is a committee in town that is looking at solutions to the problem, and something may be announced soon. “So stand by,” Orsini said.
McBroome said in order for the problem to be solved, the root cause must be discovered and dealt with.
“Unfortunately, as the Board of Directors of the McKinleyville Community Services District, they are very limited in what they can do because of where the dollars come from,” McBroome said.
Clark-Peterson said the problem is not in the MCSD’s purview. “I think any solution is going to come from some sort of partnership,” she said.
The candidates were asked what they would do to enhance law enforcement, which is provided to the community by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and the California Highway Patrol. The district does not have police powers.
Clark-Peterson said that the district doesn’t have police powers, but if the community wanted to it could vote on the matter. She noted that the district does own the Law Enforcement Facility at Pierson Park, which is used by the Sheriff’s Office.
“It really doesn’t fall within the purview of the MCSD,” said McBroome.
The district, McBroome said, can provide a voice for the community and it provides the building for the Sheriff’s Office, but it doesn’t have policing authority.
Orsini said the Sheriff’s building is provided to law enforcement at a reduced rate. As for the increase in deputies in recent years, Orsini noted that this was accomplished at the urging of the MCSD and the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee. The advisory committee pushed for more funding which resulted in the passage of Measure Z.
“This is not the mission of the McKinleyville Community Services District,” Binder said. He suggested that the best way to enhance law enforcement in McKinleyville is for people to attend McKMAC meetings, speak out and start a letter writing campaign.
Election Day is Nov. 3.