Editor’s note: The supervisor’s seat for Riverside County’s 3rd District will be on the ballot on Nov. 8. Incumbent Chuck Washington, who was appointed in March 2015 to complete the term of former Supervisor Jeff Stone, is seeking a full four-year term. Shellie Milne, Hemet City Council member, is challenging Washington.
Both candidates have agreed to come to Idyllwild for a Candidates’ Forum, 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, at the Idyllwild Nature Center.
The Idyllwild Town Crier, which is sponsoring the event, interviewed both candidates prior to the forum. These interviews are in this week’s paper and available on our website.
Washington, 63, took his seat on the board in March 2015. He is the sole Democrat on the board. He was in his third term as a Temecula council member and served as mayor twice — 2007 and 2012. He has also served as mayor and council member for the city of Murrieta.
Washington is a former Delta Airlines pilot and was vice president of commercial relations at 1st Centennial Bank. He has also served in the U.S. Navy as an officer and pilot.
He is married and has an adult daughter.
What are your priorities for the county and the district?
“My priority is to develop better and strategic infrastructure,” Supervisor Chuck Washington replied.
“Infrastructure” means more than roads and bridges to Washington. A safe environment is a critical component of an area’s infrastructure. Law enforcement, fire protection and maintenance are key pieces too.
“I’m developing a strategic plan for economic development throughout the district,” Washington promised. “Despite each community’s differences, there is a common thread throughout the district.
Tourism is the commonality that binds Riverside County’s Third District, Washington asserted. From the Temecula wine country, to the lakes — Skinner and Diamond Valley — and trails, camping and the Western Center Academy at the Western Science Center, the Third District has a variety of attractions for non-residents.
Even before joining the board of supervisors in 2015, Washington said his role on the Murrieta and Temecula city councils gave him insight about the role of tourism and who can help develop it.
Specific projects, which Washington hopes to see started and completed in the next few years, include a new library in French Valley, a community center building in Idyllwild and a smaller budget gap in San Jacinto.
What is your opinion of the current county budget situation?
Washington attributed major demands on the county budget to external sources. Two examples include jail expenses. Assembly Bill 109 (signed in 2011) reduced the State prison population, while increasing the local jail inmates. Secondly, the county in response to a lawsuit had to significantly improve health care for local inmates.
During the good economic times, the county took few actions to prepare for the lean times, in his opinion. A change in attitude was demonstrated this year when the board insisted that reserves remain at $150 million or greater.
“We have to find more efficiencies,” Washington stressed. “We have enough money and don’t need to ask for more.” He then referred to the two previous infrastructure projects.
“The library and community center are example of goals we can achieve without asking the taxpayer for money,” he said. “We have to change the ways we do business and the culture of budget.”
Would you support increases in the Sheriff’s budget to increase deputies for the unincorporated areas?
Washington wants to achieve this result. To do it, he expects the consultant working with the county executive officer to find sufficient savings in the Sheriff’s budget to add staff in the unincorporated areas and to address the concerns of the contract cities as well.
“The 3rd District has the highest population besides the distances and the most challenging terrain to patrol,” he noted.
What about jail capacity?
The East County Detention Center in Indio will be finished and that will add some capacity. But Washington was cautious about how quickly the ECDC will be fully staffed.
He compared it to adding lanes on a freeway, the traffic congestion is temporarily alleviated, and it is not a permanent solution.
He is more optimistic about the probation office’s program to help paroled convicts receive services in one place on the same day.
“Helping these people get jobs is more beneficial. Society doesn’t want to spend money on people who don’t work or pay taxes,” he said. “Reducing recidivism will save us money.”
Do you see a conflict or competition between the county and the joint fire authority, which IFPD and San Jacinto City have created?
“It’s not competition for Riverside County Fire,” Washington affirmed. “But I don’t believe what they will establish will run at the same level as the RCFD can provide. I think Cal Fire does an outstanding job regarding fire protection service and can bring many different resources to the effort.”
But Washington plans to stay out of this effort, “It’s not for me to say what Idyllwild Fire and San Jacinto want to do.”
Do you see a role for county assistance for Idyllwild recreation?
The first plan does not seem to meet the requirement; Washington is confident that county staff has an alternative plan. “Inside of three years, if we stick to the plan, there’s a path to completion,” he said.
The latest voter registration data show that about 43 percent of the voters are registered Republicans and 30 percent registered Democrats and 24 percent have no party preference. The candidates were asked if that might affect their election strategy?
“I am concerned about that, especially in the southwest portion of the district,” he confessed. While the Republican registration exceeds Democrats in his home base of Murrieta and Temecula, Washington is confident that his experience on those city councils has proven “people will vote thinking about a [candidate’s] qualification and track record, especially for a non-partisan position.