Since the beginning of the year, McPherson said, he has canvassed neighborhoods in the 5th District, visiting constituents at their homes.
“I’ve walked up and down the district — I want to hear their concerns,” he said. “The people have been very friendly, and I’ve only been nipped by one dog.”
McPherson is a resident of the Pasatiempo area and a fourth-generation resident of the county.
He was already well-known for the time he spent in the California Legislature, his time as California’s secretary of state and his 26-year tenure as editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel before deciding to enter the supervisorial contest last fall.
Describing himself as an experienced leader, McPherson said that he would use the lessons learned and connections made during his time in Sacramento to help the county and district become more self-sufficient in an era when state financial support is unreliable, at best.
“Experience counts, and personal contacts matter,” he said. “I’m a person who knows the district and knows how to make the system work better.”
“We have to concentrate on what we have and what we do well here”
McPherson said one of the keys to progress, both in the county and in the district, is to promote and expand the roles of the area’s attributes — tourism, the environment, agriculture and technology.
“We have to make it more popular with the visiting public,” he said. “We have the most tremendous natural beauty right here.”
Part of that, he said, includes following the example set by Scotts Valley in luring green businesses to the district.
“I think that Scotts Valley has bought into the green economy,” he said, referring to Zero Motorcycles, as well as the electric car charging stations springing up across the city. “Those are good, green industries — I think we can make more of a pitch to technology companies.”
“We’ve run away from our road problems for too long”
One of the biggest concerns McPherson said he has heard is the crumbling condition of many roads within the district — particularly residential roads, the maintenance of which is routinely bypassed due to budget constraints on the county’s public works department.
“We haven’t, as a county, paid attention to our road system,” he said. “The longer we wait, the worse it’s going to get.”
McPherson said it would be unrealistic to hope for additional state support to expand road maintenance and that residents would need to find alternative means of raising maintenance funds locally.
“If we want (additional maintenance) in a timely fashion, we’re going to have to see a fee imposed of some type,” he said. “I’m a realist — I like to face a problem, and face it realistically.”
That means, he said, generating additional revenue for maintenance through some sort of user fee, likely either in the form of a car registration fee increase or a sales tax increase.
“They feel like they’re getting the runaround”
The county’s planning process is one area in particular that McPherson said he would like to focus on should he be elected, saying that many people he’s talked to are upset by the labyrinthine building permit process.
“They are really frustrated about the county’s planning process,” he said. “They feel like they’re getting the runaround.”
McPherson said he heard many stories of people going through months of paperwork and thousands of dollars trying to obtain a permit to build on their property in an effort to comply with the county’s general plan, only to be told about new requirements and new fees.
“It’s a matter of fair play,” he said. “People don’t mind the rules, they just want to be told what they can do.”
Many residents, McPherson said, either simply give up on the process or sidestep it altogether and build without the county’s blessing, just because it’s less of a headache.
“We have a lot of nonconforming uses from law-abiding citizens,” he said. “It’s not the result of people wanting to break the law, it’s just they’re tired of getting the runaround.”
McPherson said the process needs to be simplified and that applicants should be told up-front if they can do their planned project and, if so, what their project would cost.
“They just want to be able to find out ‘This is what you have to do, this is what it’ll cost,’” he said.
“It feels good to concentrate on my home county”
McPherson has been encouraged by the amount of support he’s received, both from organizational endorsements and individuals.
“The support system I’ve gotten has been humbling and very much appreciated,” he said. “The environmental and public safety support system has been very encouraging.”
He said he believes voters will recognize him as a nonpartisan consensus builder who will encourage the unique, and often fiercely independent, communities of the 5th District to work together.
“I’d like to see the whole valley work in unison a little more,” he said. “It needs to be more of ‘What can we do together?’”
McPherson said he was excited about the prospect of making positive contributions close to home.
“There’s a lot of good things here — we can make them better,” he said. “We just need some leadership in getting it there.
“It feels good to concentrate on my home county.”