Sunday, 14 July 2024

Lake County News Editorial: Lauding state and congressional leaders’ Lake County focus

From left, State Senate Majority Leader Mike McGuire, Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry and Congressman Mike Thompson. Courtesy photos.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — Rural areas like Lake County need champions, people who don’t overlook small communities or their unique cultural and economic values.

It’s especially true now, when political stakes seem the highest and most volatile in decades.

That is prompting us to share our support for the reelection of State Sen. Mike McGuire, Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry and Congressman Mike Thompson.

These three leaders, whether on their own or working together, have forcefully championed Lake County, especially as it has endured a decade of disasters and rebuilding.

They’ve consistently been there to find ways to help dust us off and get us back on our feet, whether it was facilitating the rebuild in Anderson Springs, which McGuire skillfully coordinated against seemingly huge odds; finding state funding for the Middle Creek Restoration Project, which Aguiar-Curry did in her championing of improving Clear Lake; or getting repeated disaster assistance from the federal government, which Thompson has facilitated. That’s just a brief sampling.

McGuire, now California’s Senate majority leader, has been a legislative Energizer Bunny, and it’s that seemingly inexhaustible energy that has been critical to helping Lake County as it’s been buffeted by fires, floods and now COVID. He and wife Erika, are now the proud and busy parents of young Connor (shout out to the “Corn Dog,” as he’s known).

Aguiar-Curry, raised in the Sacramento Valley and ever-mindful of the importance of the land and its preservation, has been just as reliable a champion of Lake County, and has always shown a genuine interest in seeing it succeed. She is steady, determined and supportive.

Their efforts for Lake County can’t be fully listed here.

However, with friends like that, it’s hard not to be optimistic, and we are looking forward to how they will continue to work with Lake County in the years ahead. We offer them our enthusiastic support.

Representing a ‘new’ district

On the federal level, Thompson is running to represent the new Congressional District 4 on the November ballot.

The first Vietnam veteran to serve in the California Legislature, Thompson has been a consistent and powerful advocate for veterans, such as advocating for service members impacted by Project SHAD, an experiment conducted in the 1960s that left those exposed to harmful chemicals with years of devastating illnesses. In fact, it was through his efforts that we first learned about that issue.

He also played a critical role in finally bringing a Veterans Affairs clinic to Lake County. The clinic, which opened in 2010, had been on the drawing board for more than a decade and likely would not have ever become a reality had it not been for Thompson’s consistent advocacy. That clinic has been a triumph in a county with one of the higher per-capita veteran populations in the state, at last count about 8%.

Going back to George W. Bush’s presidency, when there was a real attempt to privatize Social Security, Thompson would have none of it. He held a memorable town hall on a Saturday in Lake County to explain the plan, which would have placed the safety net for millions of seniors at the mercy of the stock market — which hindsight shows us would have been just as disastrous as Thompson surmised.

Throughout the years, Thompson has played a key role in many other important projects in Lake County, whether it was funding for the 2002 effort to renovate the Kelseyville Senior Center or the Full Circle project.

Keeping all of those past accomplishments in mind is important. It establishes a track record.

Thompson previously had represented a congressional district that included all of Lake County. However, in a redistricting process that followed the 2010 Census, Lake County was split between Thompson and Congressman John Garamendi, with Thompson representing the county’s southern half as part of Congressional District 5 and Lake County’s northern half combined with areas of the Sacramento Valley as part of Congressional District 3 under Garamendi.

Now, as a result of the 2020 Census, new lines have been drawn. Lake County’s leaders and community members advocated for having the county back in one congressional district, and that is how it turned out.

In December, the 2020 California Citizens Redistricting Commission finished its work, which included redrawing the state’s Congressional District 4 to include all of Lake and portions of Napa, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties.

Thompson had vowed to continue to champion all of Lake County even when the county was split 10 years ago, and our observation is that he kept that promise.

As an illustration: Even before the new district lines take effect, Thompson has been working on countywide projects. He’s already secured $3 million in federal funding for the new recreation center project in the city of Clearlake.

Even before the large amounts of money made available in recent years in response to the coronavirus, Thompson has worked hard to make sure Lake County received the resources it has needed to make critical advances in infrastructure and services. He also was there to support county officials as they dealt with the pandemic.

Thompson is continuing to be proactive. Earlier this year, well ahead of taking the Clearlake area back into his coverage area, Thompson reached out to the city of Clearlake about the new recreation center plan. The project is another of the truly transformational projects Clearlake is undertaking, and Thompson has included it in the federal budget for key funding.

Then there was the Safe Routes to Schools project in Kelseyville, which received that same critical federal funding this spring thanks to Thompson’s efforts. That project is making key sidewalk improvements along Konocti Road in order to ensure children get to classes safely.

He and Garamendi also have joined forces to lead a request to President Joe Biden to expand the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument to include the Walker Ridge area. Garamendi and Sen. Alex Padilla introduced legislation to expand the monument. Thompson had introduced the original bill to create the monument, which President Barack Obama created in 2015.

The latest effort will give the Walker Ridge area back its original name, Molok Luyuk, which means “Condor Ridge” in Patwin, the language of the Yocha Dehe Wintun people.

These aren’t useless “pork” projects or ego-driven. They’re meaningful, they are about safety and building community, and about meeting real community needs. Those that have been completed have been successful, and continue to contribute to Lake County.

Thompson also has made himself available to speak about important situations at the federal level.

On Jan. 6, 2021, while he and his staff were still sheltering in place as the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol unfolded, they stayed in contact with Lake County News and other media to let constituents know what was occurring.

It was hard to fathom just what was taking place, but then, as now, Thompson was clear on what was going on: It was an insurrection. He wanted people to know what was happening on the ground, and we remain grateful that he was willing to make himself available during a time of incredible stress and utter chaos.

There are many other issues we feel Thompson has rightly championed, including modernizing and expanding health care and the work to make it truly accessible for all, improved prescription drug prices, continued protection of Social Security and support for improved infrastructure and community recovery.

As he prepares to once again formally represent all of Lake County, we ask that he keep an eye on some specific issues.

One key project we recommend to him is protecting Lake Pillsbury. Efforts to remove the Scott Dam have largely been formulated without Lake County at the table, which is nonsensical considering that Lake Pillsbury is located in Lake County.

This appears to be a water grab by other interests, couched in terms of what’s best for fish. But maintaining the dam while creating better passage options for fish is the more affordable option, and ideal because it avoids pitting fish against people in a zero sum game approach.

Reservoirs like Lake Pillsbury also are critical for fire protection. Lake Pillsbury, in fact, proved a key water source in the fights against the forest-devouring Mendocino and August complexes.

Additionally, Lake County’s state legislators and county leaders will need Thompson’s continued support to get the Middle Creek Restoration Project over the eventual finish line.

That project, which will restore 1,650 acres as wetland in order to improve lake health and lessen flood risk, has been going on for decades. However, between Aguiar-Curry, McGuire and Thompson, the completion of the project finally is appearing likely.

There also is the troubling matter of the levees in Upper Lake, where community members are concerned that the conditions of the levees could result in a breach and a devastating flood.

The federal Natural Resources Conservation Services appears to be a potential funding source to make needed levee improvements. Once the county of Lake settles on the alternative it will pursue for the levees, we believe Thompson’s help will be critical in securing the funds to preserve that historic community and protect its residents.

Beyond that, there are many more causes we anticipate that will require Thompson’s support — whether it’s broadband, historic preservation work, continuing the work of expanding health care, or offering more support for veterans and their families.

In all of those things, we’re confident that Mike Thompson will continue to be a strong advocate for, and friend of, Lake County. As such, he gets our vote.

The Lake County News Editorial Board is composed of Editor and Co-Publisher Elizabeth Larson and Co-Publisher and Site Administrator John Jensen.

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