While James Gore has been hard at work to serve you and improve our quality of life, he continues to focus on important community issues, including:
Fire Recovery and Resilience
The late night and early morning hours of October 8 and 9, 2017 were some of the most trying times for our residents and our community. Harrowing stories of escape and survival prefaced a changed landscape in Northern Sonoma County and beyond. The 4th District, with both the Tubbs Fire (which swept through Porter Creek Road/Mark West Springs Road, Larkfield/Wikiup, Fountaingrove and Coffey Park neighborhoods) and the Pocket Fire (which affected Geyserville) caused unprecedented damage both in terms of loss of life and loss of property. James has been out front since the moment the fires broke out to both learn from and collaborate with first responders to save as many lives, homes and businesses as possible.
The lessons learned from 2017 allowed Sonoma County to be stronger, more resilient and better prepared when subsequent wildfires broke out in the 4th District: the 2019 Kincade Fire, and 2020 Wahlbridge Fire. As Chairman of the Board of Supervisors in 2018, James took the lead in working with community groups like Coffey Strong to empower citizens and bring neighborhods together, create tailored neighborhood evacuation plans and establish community-based programs such as Citizens Organized to Prepare for Emergencies (C.O.P.E.).
James also supported improved fire prevention and preparedness initiatives to reduce fuel loads on public lands, establish the free woodchipping program for private properties, enhance emegency alert systems and take other proactive measures to allow Sonoma County to be ready for the next wildfire or natural disaster. The model James helped create has been used by other fire-prone areas across the State of California, and has allowed us to be more prepared for our new normal as we adapt to a hotter, warmer climate.
COVID Response and Recovery
Since the coronavirus pandemic began taking hold in Sonoma County in 2020, residents and businesses have been forced to change our way of life as we knew it. James' first and foremost priority has been to protect our resident's health and well-being, followed closely by helping ensure our small, locally-owned businesses are able to survive and recover from COVID-era business restrictions. While the state's full reopening has helped to a certain degree, James has engaged with local business owners to understand their ongoing concerns, from labor shortages and greater safety protocols to supply chain issues. James is committed to doing what he can to support both our workforce and businesses to keep them employed and fiscally viable.
Adaptation and Conservation in Light of Drought
The drought facing California today has created profound challenges on local communities to conserve water despite the great strides made over the last decade to incentivize water-efficient appliances, low-flow showerheads and toilets and drought-tolerant landscaping. Despite the challenges to find new ways to conserve, as a Director of Sonoma Water, James has been encouraged by residents' ability to get creative to reduce and conserve water during our historic drought conditions.
With record low surface water levels at Lake Mendocino, which provides potable water to the North County communities of Cloverdale, Geyserville and Healdsburg, Lake Mendocino could be at risk of going dry if not enough rainfall materializes this winter. As the Sonoma County Supervisor representing the communities most vulnerable to the impacts of the drought, James is using his position with Sonoma Water and as President of the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) to ensure Sonoma County secures regional and state resources to help the most impacted residents get access to potable water if their wells run dry, conserve the precious surfacewater we have remaining, and advance efforts to recharge groundwater and use graywater/other innovative techniques to most effectively use the freshwater available to us.
Ongoing Efforts to Repair Our Roads
While Sonoma County has repaved 25% of our rural roads (spanning nearly 400 miles) and made record investments in our roads and infrastructure (totaling nearly $100 million) over the last 5 years, James recognizes that there’s still much to be accomplished in this area. James lives on a rural road in an unincorporated area, and knows we must continue repaving our primary and connector roads while also developing longer-term plans to begin repaving roads in rural residential areas. He is committed to continuing to make road repairs and improvements a top priority.
Addressing Economic and Social Inequities
James supported a living wage ordinance for county contractors, part of a broader push to address income inequality in Sonoma County. While our local economy has steadily grown since James took office and employment levels are at all-time highs, James knows we must do more to improve the social safety net for low-wage and vulnerable populations. This philosophy extends beyond our workforce, and also includes those who are in need of mental health or homelessness services. James wants to continue efforts in these areas to improve the quality of life for those in greatest need.
Providing More Affordable and Workforce Housing
James recognizes the affordable housing crisis that has heavily impacted Sonoma County renters over the last few years. While most new residential development has been proposed within Sonoma County’s cities, James has been supportive of efforts to provide more workforce housing. James voted to approve a streamlined process for secondary dwellings on existing residential properties, more commonly known as “granny units”, as one step in the right direction. Earlier this year, he also voted to approve the construction of bunkhouses for local vineyard workers, which will provide nearly 100 beds to these workers in the Geyserville area, which coupled with another recently-completed farmworker housing project in Larkfield, will enable hard-working agricultural workers with an affordable place to live. James is committed to a continued, collaborative partnership with our cities and non-profit organizations to develop more affordable, workforce housing for local residents who need it most.
Developing a More Sustainable Pension System
James Gore remains a steadfast supporter of pension reform efforts that ensure our county’s long-term fiscal vitality. While he recognizes the headway made by the county on pension reform in recent years, he looks forward to collaborating with the recently-formed permanent citizens’ advisory committee on additional pension reform efforts – and how Sonoma County can continue making inroads to reduce the county’s $750 million in pension bonds and unfunded liabilities.
Improving Our Watersheds and Water Resources
James has made water quality and reliability one of the cornerstones of his first term in office. James continues to encourage water conservation and groundwater sustainability to help us better prepare for the next drought and ensure a more resilient water supply in the future. Beyond this, James is turning his focus to collaborative efforts to improve our watersheds. James helped found the Russian River Confluence, an organization formed to bring stakeholders from the agricultural, environmental and recreational communities together to restore and revitalize the Russian River watershed. To advance this cause, James spearheaded efforts to form Sonoma County Venture Conservation, which brought together dozens of organizations and $30 million in local, state and federal resources to increase groundwater supplies and fund habitat improvement and water quality improvements on the Russian River, with an ultimate goal of reducing sediment and bacteria, coupled with lower water temperatures, to remove the Russian River from a list of “impaired” waterways under the U.S. Government’s Clean Water Act.
Protecting Our Environment and Open Spaces
When it comes to protecting our environment and open spaces, James has been a dedicated advocate towards the preservation of our environment and open space areas. Since James took office, as a Board Director for the County’s Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, he’s approved funding for a bluff-top trail at Stewarts Point and additional hiking trails at Taylor Mountain, funding to bring the completion of Mark West Creek Park closer to reality, and funding to permanently protect forestlands and farmlands, including $4.5 million to preserve old-growth redwood forestland in Annapolis in northwestern Sonoma County. More modest investments supported by James included approving funding to create picnic areas at Riverfront Park right here in the 4th District, and the expansion of protected lands into regional parks in the years ahead. James knows that protecting these open spaces for future generations is of the utmost importance, while continuing to advocate for environmental protection.
Keeping Our Community Safe While Protecting Our Most Vulnerable
As the father of two young children, James remains a steadfast supporter of providing the resources law enforcement officials need to keep our community safe and reduce instances of violent crimes and property crimes. At the same time, James is committed to protecting our most vulnerable and connecting them with social services, including undocumented workers and homeless residents who are not committing crimes or posing a danger to our community.
Making Our Rural Fire Districts More Efficient and Effective
During his first term in office, James voted to approve $1.2 million in funding assistance for our rural fire districts to enable them to replace outdated vehicles and equipment, with the ultimate goal of improving the operational efficiency of firefighters who keep our rural areas safe. More recently, James supported efforts that will direct some funds generated from a new “tourist tax” on overnight hotel or vacation rental stays (known as Measure L, which was overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2016), to further help improve the finances of our rural fire districts. While James wants to further discussion on streamlining and improving efficiencies within our rural fire districts, he remains supportive of their important role in combatting fires of all sizes throughout our rural communities and acting as first responders in the event of an emergency – he will continue to partner with our fire districts to address these problems in the years ahead.
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