Current District 2 Supervisor Jeff Griffiths, in his second term, and challenger Heather Lind, who is currently on the City of Bishop Planning Commission and a substitute teacher, met at a Candidates Forum at Cerro Coso Community College in Bishop last Thursday, February 20th.
The Forum was hosted by Inyo350, a local non-profit whose mission is to promote environmental protection and social and economic justice through policy influence, education, and direct action.
The issues discussed included downtown traffic congestion, noise, county employee retention, business revitalization, pending commercial air service at the Bishop Airport, housing, veterans’ services, and the issue of the homeless in Bishop.
Homelessness became an issue largely as the result of the move recently to allow homeless people to park their vehicles overnight in the parking lot of the Bishop Nazarene Church parking lot.
Lind appeared to question whether there really was a homeless problem in Bishop, seeming to attribute the problem to “transient lifestyle choices.” She was concerned that Bishop would become a “homeless magnet” if services were being provided and the homeless allowed to congregate in safe places overnight, and “incentivize” more of the homeless to come to Bishop.
Griffiths, on the other hand, had absolutely no doubt that there is a growing homeless problem in Bishop, as there is state-wide and nationally.
“Bishop does have homeless people,” said Griffiths, “And the numbers are shocking.”
Griffith recently helped count the homeless for the federally mandated survey that is required to continue receiving federal and state funding. He also volunteers at the Methodist Church soup kitchen where they serve hot meals to the homeless and low-income residents.
Both candidates had similar views about a bypass for large trucks to reduce congestion and noise downtown. However, it is a question of whether the bypass is feasible, would it be approved, how would it be paid for, and would it happen anytime soon.
Lind talked about her vision of the future as being whatever the community wants, and she says she’s ‘knocked on a lot of doors’ to find out. She is also concerned over the need for diversity on the County Board of Supervisors, which she noted is “currently all-white, all-male.”
“It’s time for some fresh blood and new ideas,” Lind says.
“We could also do more for our seniors and veterans,” says Lind. She feels there is “cronyism” in the county workforce, and that the county has a problem recruiting, training and keeping county employee; a problem she thinks “delays services and reduces the effectiveness of county programs.”
Griffiths responded that any increase or expansion of services is a problem for the County. He says the county must be “creative” and partner with the City of Bishop, Mono County, non-profits and other groups in order to find funding for veterans, housing, parks and public lands.
Lind is concerned over airline subsidies for the Bishop Airport. “Locking into subsidy agreements that might, in the future, be hard to afford or justify should circumstances change,” she says. At the same time, she feels that commercial air service would “open some doors” for Bishop and the area, but that “flight schedules should reflect what is convenient and useful for locals and the business community.”
Griffiths referred to the airport as “a game changer” for Bishop and tourism and one of the county’s greatest achievements in the past 20 years. “It will improve residents’ lives and make it easier for families and others to come to Bishop,” he says. He also feels there is the potential “to attract businesses and create new, good-paying jobs.” As for subsidy concerns, he admits that agreements must be reached to “split the subsidy fairly” between Mammoth Mountain, Mammoth Lakes Tourism and Inyo County.
Griffiths feels that his strength is that he has served on the Bishop City Council and the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, and as a volunteer in many organizations and that he knows how things work and he knows what needs to be done.
“I take my job seriously,” Griffiths noted, “and I work hard at it.”
“I want a local economy that is good for young people, that sees local tribes treated with respect, and continue to work on improving housing and public land issues,” Griffiths says.
Now just a few days away, the March 3rd Primary will determine which of the two candidates will serve the voters of the Second Inyo County District.
Be sure to vote!