By Bobby Macaulay.
As Chief of Staff for Madera County District 5, I often receive calls from residents that can no longer afford to live in the area. Rising costs of living and housing shortages are forcing people to move to more urban areas. No one should have to leave their home to find a more affordable life and better paying job. I will work to improve our affordable housing stock as well as create better paying jobs and pathways to obtain them.
Improving Housing Stock
Using state funding (Regional Early Action Planning and Community Development Block Grant) the county will be updating its Housing Element in the coming months. It will examine employment and housing trends, considering existing inventory, available sites, and constraints on the market. The study will be used to create effective plans and programs to develop more housing in the County.
As Supervisor, I will require an analysis and evaluation of building and planning fees. The county must ensure that our fees are not only competitive with neighboring counties but are crafted in a manner that helps people realize their dream of home ownership. I will work to differentiate small projects (parcel maps) from larger projects (subdivision maps). This will help improve our housing stock and reduce the cost of housing.
We will not address housing shortages in the area by just building more housing. Affordable rentals, workforce housing, starter homes, family homes, and retirement communities all make up important components of the housing portfolio. As Supervisor I will continue to work with developers that offer to bring more work force housing and permanent rentals to the area. I am committed to the idea of creating pathways to homeownership for our residents.
Reducing the Costs of Living
I will help reduce the rising cost of living by addressing the insurance crisis, encourage higher-paying job opportunities, increase affordable youth services, expand medical services, and economizing the use of our tax dollars. I want to make government more efficient and business friendly. By helping to control costs and creating higher paying jobs, we will improve our quality of life.
As a former insurance broker, I know how the rising cost of insurance affects residential property and commercial property owners. It is a very complex issue however at a local level the answer is simple; we need to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire. We can do this. By improving our County Fire equipment and facilities, increasing staffing, managing vegetation, and hardening our structures we can reduce our risk of disaster. I will also work to make changes at the State level. While some change is underway, the state needs to create more competition in the marketplace, and we need legislative action to make it happen. I understand what needs to be done and I have the connections to help make it happen.
As Chief of Staff for District 5 I have helped bring millions of dollars into the community to help address vegetation issues. I have advocated for the continuation of the County’s Fire Vehicle Replacement Program. I worked with the North Fork Rancheria on bringing improvements to Station 11 in North Fork and worked with staff on ensuring our new fire station on Ave 16 stays within the budget.
I have helped to identify and create funding that will bring full-time firefighters to North Fork. I have also advocated to the state for more discounts through the county’s Firewise Madera Program which is currently saving homeowner’s money on their insurance. As your Supervisor, I will continue to advocate at the state level to create more competition in the marketplace. Additionally, I will insist that improvements to the Yosemite Lakes Park and Bass Lake stations are completed and the stations staffed.
I have been a proud board member and President of the Boys & Girls Club of Oakhurst for nearly a decade. We were able to expand our daily attendance from 30 kids a day to upwards of 130. We have expanded our services to include youth athletics, leadership programs, and in person learning services during the school closures in 2020-2021.
I am currently helping to nurture partnerships with our local school districts that will culminate in additional club sites throughout the mountain area. As Supervisor, I will continue to build upon these partnerships to create more dynamic and affordable youth programing. I am committed to building great leaders for tomorrow.
Improving Access to Medical Services
Preventive care reduces the risk of chronic medical conditions as we age. Improving access to essential medical services will help keep our community healthy and happy. I will improve access to medical services for our youth, seniors, veterans, low income, as well as the community at large.
We need to ensure that our seniors have ample transportation opportunities to seek services. Our current system is ineffective and inefficient. We can improve it by creating ride share programs and expanding our public transportation system through partnerships with private enterprise.
With my help, Camarena Health increased their presence in North Fork and Raymond. Their mobile health clinics reduce travel times and provide an option for those communities. I have helped ensure Madera County Public Health maintained a strong presence in the mountain communities throughout the pandemic. I intend to build upon this work by creating a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club that will enable parents to set appointments where their children receive afterschool care.
The county must do a better job helping our Veterans access care. I will reorganize our Veteran Services Office to increase support for our veterans. The county has recently secured funding to expand their office, but I believe we can stretch those dollars and further reduce caseloads for those serving our veterans.
Creating Better Jobs and Pathways to Success
I will create better paying jobs in the county and ensure residents have a pathway to obtain them. I will take a proactive approach to bringing in more industry, building upon the industry that we already have, and helping to create an educational system that gives people the tools and skills they need to work in our community.
The Management of Our Public and Private Lands
The proper management of our public and private lands will result in better paying jobs. I can still remember the saw mills and the vibrant economy that once was. The current political climate in Washington will never allow us to manage the forests in this way, but better management can still be an economic driver in the Sierras. As Chief of Staff to the District, I have worked with the Sierra National Forest on developing a new Forest Management Plan that will allow for more grazing, timber harvest, and recreation.
As Supervisor, I will update our Economic Development Incentive Program (EDIP). I believe the policy should be simplified and tailored to drive development in specific regions like the mountain communities of Madera. Doing so will allow us to stimulate private industry and create better paying jobs in the area. It will also help reduce the costs of forest thinning and management by creating a byproduct that can be sold or utilized.
I will continue to build our workforce capacity with organizations like Coarsegold Resource Conservation District, Yosemite Sequoia Resource Conservation and Development Council, and the Fire Safe Council. These organizations bring millions of dollars into our economy every year and manage projects that help create safer and more vibrant communities.
Telecommuting has become common place since the pandemic. Many people can now work from home. I know several that commute to work once a week but enjoy working from home the rest of the week. The county can nurture this industry and attract more professionals to the area by improving broadband infrastructure and our public transportation system.
I have worked to help secure funding and partnerships that will culminate in better broadband services throughout the district. In partnership with the San Joaquin Rural Broadband Association, I have designated the communities of Oakhurst, North Fork, and Coarsegold as priorities for last mile infrastructure. I have also helped “bird dog” funding that will coordinate efforts among Internet Service Providers (ISPs), local municipalities, and other area stakeholders. The state and the feds are making unprecedented investments in broadband infrastructure and I will ensure that these tax dollars are wisely spent in Madera County.
The county is redeveloping our public transportation system. We will soon be able to take public transportation from Oakhurst to a new Amtrak station being built next to the new Madera College on Avenue 12. I have been able to strengthen our private and public partnerships so we can apply some common sense to our bus routes. We need more short-range transit between the mountain communities and the valley. As your Supervisor, I will ensure that this plan comes to fruition.
For nearly a decade I have worked to improve community facilities and services that support tourism. My experience working alongside volunteers in the community combined with my knowledge of local, state, and federal processes makes me the ideal candidate to ensure that our tourism industry receives the support it needs. Tourism is our primary economic driver. I will work to create and improve community facilities, infrastructure, and services that encourage our visitors to stay longer and more often.
The Eastern Madera County Foundation has worked to beautify the mountain area for over 30 years. After learning that the organization was at risk of dissolving, I rewrote the bylaws to create an organization that was more inclusive of all residents. The organization’s board is now made up of representatives from each area chamber of commerce (Bass Lake, Coarsegold, North Fork, and Oakhurst), Visit Yosemite Madera County Visitors Bureau, and 6 community representatives from different geographic areas.
The organization has now been able to hire a grant writer and submit requests for over $8 million in state funding. This funding will make trail improvements in North Fork and Oakhurst, improve the Fresno Flats Historic Village, and create sidewalks and bike paths in Indian Lakes.
Education is the key element to securing a better paying jobs and building wealth. I will work proactively with the College District, the Yosemite Adult School, and our local school districts to create more educational pathways and job opportunities. We need to train our youth to work within our economy. I support programs to train linemen, arborists, foresters, firefighters, public safety officers, and more.
More to Come
A Better Place to Live, Work, and Play is part one of my three-part action plan. As your Supervisor I will continue to work with County Staff, the community and stakeholders to improve the quality of life for our residents.
Please be on the lookout for parts two and three covering Public Safety and Local Control.