Friday, 21 June 2024

Feimer: Sullivan the best pick for treasurer-tax collector

In this election, Lake County voters are choosing a new treasurer-tax collector.

There are two candidates: One, Patrick Sullivan, lives here in Lake County and has spent the last three and a half years working as our tax administrator. Before that, he worked for six and a half years in the Mendocino Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office. In total, that’s 10 years of experience dealing with rural taxation and revenue.

The other candidate, Paul Flores, worked in the Lake County Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office roughly 23 years ago, before moving to Southern California. He has worked in various finance- and taxation-related positions there over the years, including a stint with the Orange County Treasurer. But until this election his presence in this county appears to have mainly been as a vacationer.

Both candidates have run clean campaigns without the animosity we have witnessed in some of our other local races. Unfortunately, decent politics do not seem to grab the public’s attention: At a recent town hall in Middletown, Sullivan and Flores had to answer the fewest questions from the public of any of the candidates. The moderator apologized, describing the office as “geeky.”

But make no mistake: The regulatory environment that the county treasurer-tax collector must operate in has changed dramatically in the near quarter of a century that has passed since Flores left here for Southern California.

For example, online rental platforms like Airbnb and VRBO didn’t really exist at that time. Since then, they have come to dominate the market, and have created whole new needs for tax compliance and enforcement.

Then there’s what is perhaps the most significant change that has occurred in the decades since Flores left Lake County: The legalization of cannabis. It has created a complicated state and local regulatory framework that the treasurer-tax collector must navigate.

For example, Lake County has both a cannabis cultivation tax, a flat tax based on square feet utilized, and a cannabis business tax based on gross receipts. These require different systems for compliance and collections. Flores has not detailed what, if any, experience he has had in dealing with these challenges.

Patrick Sullivan has. He took the lead helping the county to obtain third-party software to help identify and monitor unregistered short-term rentals. He spearheaded the enforcement of registration requirements for them, and the collection of delinquent transient occupancy taxes. He has worked to see Lake County awarded state grants that fund code enforcement efforts to combat illegal cannabis cultivation. He has kept on top of continued updates to laws and regulations, at both the state and local levels, regarding the county's investments, and helped to successfully incorporate these changes into the county's investment policy.

In his town hall appearance, Mr. Flores has emphasized the need for “teamwork” and being a “team player” as the keys to success as treasurer-tax collector. He also noted the need to work with the five supervisors on “hard decision making.” However, Mr. Flores states that he has taken a “different approach” to endorsements. Noting that he has been largely absent from Lake County for 20 plus years, he states that he doesn’t feel that he needs, nor does he wish to get “entangled” in endorsements.

Patrick Sullivan is endorsed by multiple current and former office holders, employees, professionals and business owners in this county, including all five current members of the Board of Supervisors. Former supervisors Rob Brown and Anthony Farrington have both endorsed him. As the readers of these pages probably know, Brown and Farrington don’t seem to agree on much these days. But both believe Patrick Sullivan is the best pick for our treasurer-tax collector.

The elected office of treasurer-tax collector demands someone with current and relevant experience, and the relationships necessary to produce tangible results with that experience.

Patrick Sullivan has spent the past several years gaining that experience and building those relationships. That is why he has earned my vote for treasurer-tax collector, and why I think he deserves your vote too.

Thomas Feimer is an attorney in Lakeport, California.

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