Opinion - Outside Influence on County Elections

by Placerville Newswire / Apr 13, 2018 / comments

[Nick Miller]

One of the hottest hot buttons in our County is growth.  One of the hottest hot buttons in our country is outside influence on our election process.  Interestingly, these come together in El Dorado County – and not in a good way.  

Here’s how:
As an El Dorado County builder for over 30 years, I am firmly in the Smart Growth camp.  I’m fine to follow the (ever changing) rules and ensure that our County’s resources are protected and maintained while I pursue efforts to build high-quality single-family homes on appropriately-sized lots.  But when I look to the western edge of the County, I see massive amounts of dirt being moved in preparation for apparently massive development projects.  These projects create jobs and profits for Out of the Area Developers, leaving our County only with more congestion and traffic.

To understand what is afoot, I reviewed the donations to our current slate of political candidates using the 460 forms at County Elections department.  I wish these documents were on line to provide visibility and transparency to voters, but that is the subject of another letter. 
Three local races drew my attention.  The District 4 Supervisor race has the two candidates receiving equal percentages of current funds from outside influences – about 10% of funds raised as of 12/31/17.  The Recorder-Clerk race has the two candidates who have raised funds both at around the 60% range of contributions from within our County. 

Then, an enormous disparity shows up in the Auditor-Controller race.  The incumbent, Joe Harn, received an astonishing 95% of his funds for this election period from Out of the Area Developers.  His opponent, on the other hand, obtained 99% of his contributions locally.   Going back to the 2014 race, Harn has received a stunning $100K from developers in the last four years.

It is important to note that Joe Harn is on the County’s Development Agreement Negotiation Committee.  That appears to be an odd role for a County Auditor, who should maintain an independent viewpoint to do his or her job. 

So let’s recap:

1) Out of control growth at the western edge of our County
2) $100K in campaign contributions to a public official who negotiates developer agreements 
3) Outside influence on our election process
4) An glaring of Pay to Play – right in our back yard

This is a classic case of follow the money.  Do we want to continue this unethical and cozy situation?  

My vote is for Mike Owen for Auditor-Controller this June.  Let’s fix what is broken.

Nick Miller
Diamond Springs