Candidates Shellie Milne, Hemet City Council member, and Chuck Washington, 3rd District supervisor, answer questions from the community at a Candidate’s Forum last week at the Idyllwild Nature Center.Photo by JP Crumrine
Candidates Shellie Milne, Hemet City Council member, and Chuck Washington, 3rd District supervisor, answer questions from the community at a Candidate’s Forum last week at the Idyllwild Nature Center. Photo by JP Crumrine

On Oct. 6, Supervisor Chuck Washington and Hemet Council member Shellie Mine, candidates for the Riverside County 3rd District supervisor’s seat, were in Idyllwild to share their views and vision for the Hill and the county.

The members of the audience posed all of the questions to the candidates. The questions were Idyllwild-centric. The candidates were candid and prepared sound-bites were not the tone of the evening.

This is the second part of the questions and the candidates’ responses. Questions about the Idyllwild Water District and Idyllwild’s role in the county were in the first part, which appeared in the Oct. 13 issue.

Rather than repeat the questions in the order asked, they have been organized by subject so that the totality of the responses can be together rather than separated and disparate.

Town Hall’s future

Q: What are your plans for keeping the Town Hall in the community’s hands?

SM: There seem to be two different community centers, here — the proposed and the existing.

I know Supv. Washington is furnishing money to help and that former Supv. Stone offered to help.

But there are two principals. First, what is the return on the investment? And second, how can we help Idyllwild do what it wants and not force it on you?

CW: I see two issues. First, Town Hall does not belong to the community. It belongs to Jay Johnson and his family. Second, it is not a very wise investment of taxpayers’ money to buy Town Hall.

We’re much closer to the new community center than many think.

[Washington acknowledged that an initial idea to create a loan, to be repaid from the County Service Area 36 ad valorum receipts, for constructing the Community Center would not work.]

But in 2010, the Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution allowing the use of Community Development Block Grant funds in Idyllwild. We’re arranging to dedicate $500,000 this year and next fiscal year another $725,000 and forget the loan option.

You’ll get your Community Center in the next two to two-and-a-half years and can use the CSA assessment to support what you want.

SM: These CDBG funds come with strings — Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing.

[U.S. Housing and Urban Development funding applies this 2015 rule, which clarifies and simplifies existing fair-housing obligations for HUD grantees to analyze their fair-housing landscape, and set locally determined fair housing priorities and goals. Since the actual grant allocation goes to Riverside County, that would be where the new rule applies. Idyllwild is where the county would use the funds.]

The AFFH rule nationally is climbing and lets the federal government come into communities and sets new zoning criteria because you accept their money.

This is the issue with CDBG funding. Be leery of taking their funds.

CW: That’s inaccurate. There are no strings. The board has designated areas for business improvement. We would have lost these funds if we don’t use them.

I would rather that you have your community center than have them go back to DC.

Q. How will you keep the Town Hall available for community recreation until the Community Center is complete in probably four years?

CW: It won’t be four years. It’s maybe three years; my hope is two years.

We have a month-to-month lease and will continue it. We have good relations with the Johnsons, so it doesn’t’ make sense for the county to buy the facility.

SM: I see no change looking forward. Town Hall has served as a prominent community value.

Q. Can you talk about the availability of water for the Idyllwild Community Center?

SM: As we go through and look at the issue of water availability, you have to save.

I can assure you that people who have been paying have a right to water. And as you move forward with the Community Center, everybody who has been promised water should get it. You should get it if paying for it.

CW: You’re raising the issue of a water shortage from the Community Center. I’ve done everything I can do so that businesses and the Community Center can move forward together.

You’ve got to get IWD to improve its supply sources. And I’ve had private conversations with another water district that is willing to step in. I’m confident we can move forward.

Q. Have any monies been spent on CSA 36?

[According to financial reports from the county’s Economic Development Agency, about $200,000 in revenue was collected during fiscal year 2015-16 for CSA 36. About 62 percent came from the $35 per parcel fee. Expenses were about $170,000. The cash balance at the end of June was slightly more than $230,000.]

CW: CSA residents pay assessments into it.

[Milne did not know the details of the CSA 36 budget so passed on this question.]

Q. How will recreation be provided before the Community Center is completed if the Johnson family sells the Town Hall?

CW: We have a couple of plan Bs. Many activities are outside and can continue. Mr. Johnson will keep the lease.

Q. I am concerned the proposed Idyllwild Community Center is a business proposition masquerading as a community benefit. The proposed amphitheater appears to be an entertainment venue, which will exasperate the growing Idyllwild traffic and parking problems. What are the candidates’ thoughts on this proposal?

CW: It is not a business, it’s for the community. A nonprofit will run it for the benefit of the community.

[Washington acknowledged that traffic can be a hindrance on the two-lane highways from below to Idyllwild, especially when the Hill is the destination for a major event, such as the jazz festival, or to see and play in the snow.]

When it snows, we receive some complaints. Last year, I convened a meeting of representatives from Cal Trans, Riverside County Roads, the Sheriff’s Department and others. The next weekend, Cal Trans got up “reader boards,” warning that snow makes the road dangerous.

But believe me, I hear that the lodges and restaurants are very happy when people are coming.

SM: We hope it is a Community Center and doesn’t turn into something else. The community here wanted it. When you build something beautiful, people come. You’ve heard why we came and there are lots like us.

CW: I have expressed at the 3rd District Summit that I see a common thread running through the district — from the southwest to Mt. San Jacinto. This is the most beautiful part of the county.

In 27 years, county tourism has grown to $700 million annually and I expect the 3rd district to take advantage of that. In 10 years, it will approach $1.5 billion.