A handful of people watched incumbent District 1 Supervisor John Knight and challenger Ron Mikulaco make their sales pitches to voters last Thursday at the League of Women Voters forum.
In this last stretch before the June 5 election Mikulaco has made himself omnipresent in recent weeks, attending public meetings nightly, knocking on doors and often standing at the side of road during commute hours.
Leaflets disparaging Mikulaco recently appeared around El Dorado Hills. Before the forum at the El Dorado Hills Community Services District pavilion, Knight shook his head and said he and his campaign didn’t approve the message, and doesn’t condone it. “That kind of stuff makes us all look bad,” he said.
Betsy Kerr moderated the forum that approximately 15 people attended.
Knight emphasized his experience in government, his history of involvement in the community and the difficult budgets his board has balanced.
He committed to policies that address “sales tax leakage,” the flow of sales tax dollars into Folsom. “We need to ensure that growth is restrained and managed in an environmentally responsible way,” he said.
Mikulaco came out firing, repeatedly proclaiming that he was a “man of the people,” a third-generation plumber and “hard worker,” while portraying Knight as a career politician “beholden to the building industry.”
“Why wait until the election to address sales tax leakage,” Mikulaco asked. “Property tax revenues are down. Until home values come back or get reassessed, we’re faced with a real burden.”
Knight briefly explained the targeted General Plan amendment that recently began the approval process. “We’ve been living with this General Plan for six or seven years now and we know where it needs fine tuning,” he said. “The zoning code is woefully out of date and we need fix it.”
Most of El Dorado Hills will be unaffected, Knight said. The numerous specific plans, such as Serrano and Blackstone, have development agreements locked in. The original villages are largely built out, which leaves a finite amount of vacant land that will be affected by the update.
“The people who own some of that land can come to the table and have input into this,” Knight said.
Mikulaco replied, “Clearly John is the builder’s choice.”
He said he’d checked Knight’s campaign contributions over the last several years and found “a who’s who of builders and developers.”
Mikulaco committed to preserving the way of life in El Dorado Hills, and said any high-density projects would require “carefully consideration.”
Both candidates said that when the residents of El Dorado Hills were ready for cityhood they’d support it.
Knight said he voted for cityhood and ran for the city council last time. He warned that “money and intestinal fortitude” will be required next time. “That first city council will have a huge task in front of it, putting together a general plan and a budget.”
The candidates also agreed on the question “Does the El Dorado Hills Fire District receive a disproportionally high portion of property tax?”
“Clearly they do,” said Mikulaco. “El Dorado Hills gets 17 percent but places like Latrobe only get 6 percent.”
“The communities are different,” he continued. “We have a lot of retirees that rely on the district to take care of them.”
Knight, a former volunteer firefighter who later served on the El Dorado Hills Fire Board, said, “This will get me in trouble, but yes.”
He explained that the district was also responsible for water and sewer services when it was formed, which accounts for the inflated tax increment. “They do a wonderful job, but yes they are well funded.”
The candidates were asked for their position on immanent domain. Knight didn’t hesitate. “I took an oath of office to defend the constitution of the U.S. and the state of California,” he said. “Part of that is the right of the government to take property under just compensation. That right should be used with discretion.”
Mikulaco opposed the idea without addressing the legal implications. “I believe your home is your home,” he said. “If you work hard, buy property and support the American dream I don’t think it would be taken away by someone with political connections.”
In 2006 the county purchased a parcel in Diamond Springs for an animal shelter, the cost and complications of which have steadily increased. The purchase agreement required the county to improve an access road dubbed “the road to nowhere” by critics, apparently regardless of whether the shelter is ever built.
Mikulaco accused the current board of a “reprehensible decision” on a $2 million road.
Knight explained that the purchase was before he was on the board, adding, “I don’t believe we will go forward with the project.”
The candidates disagreed on whether Knight had voted for the road improvement.
Asked if some aspects of county government, such as the library, should be outsourced, Mikulaco asked, “Why push to privatize things? The library is not for profit; it’s for the community.”
Knight said he would always consider alternate ways to deliver a service at a lower cost. “Of course we have to look at how it would work, and what the impact is,” he said.
Asked if the county should disengage with SACOG, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, Knight explained that SACOG is a metropolitan planning organization, and that every jurisdiction is legally mandated to participate in a regional “COG.”
If El Dorado Hills becomes a city it will receive an affordable housing allocation and would have to demonstrate suitable vacant land, he added.
“That doesn’t mean we’d have to build it, but it would probably be difficult for the new city to meet our allocation,” he said.
Mikulaco criticized SACOG. “We are not metropolitan. We are not Sacramento. We are El Dorado Hills,” he said.
“I don’t think SACOG should be allowed to dictate how we live, under what circumstances we live, in what neighborhood we live in,” he continued. “The citizens who live here should make those decisions.”
In closing, Mikulaco lamented the poor turnout and said he hoped his children can “inherit a community that’s similar to what we have now,” he asked “Help me help you preserve our community.”
“This is a big election. It will determine the direction this community goes in five years, 10 years and 15 years.”
Knight recapped his resume of community service and encouraged support of Measure C, which would let the county procure services less than $10,000 without a written contract.