The six candidates running for Orange County Commissioner answered questions from the public in a forum Monday night. Education, transportation and the climate action plan were among the topics asked about.
Jean Hamilton and incumbents Mark Dorosin and Penny Rich are running for two available seats in District 1. Renee Price is running unopposed for District 2. Amy Fowler is challenging incumbent Mark Marcoplos for one available at-large seat.
Of the six candidates running, four total will be elected and serve for four-year terms as Orange County Commissioners.
The county currently gives 50 percent of the fiscal budget to the school board, and the school board decides how to allocate the money within the school system. Individual schools submit their proposed budget, and the county manager makes a recommendation for the overall budget for the schools.
Sustainability issues were a focus of the forum. When asked if they would support a climate action plan for Orange County, all of the candidates said yes.
Marcoplos placed emphasis on funding county schools and economic development in Orange County.
“I have a high priority on environmental sustainability, such as coming up with a new solid waste plan and public transit plan," he said.
Marcoplos said he would support a tax increase, and that pressuring utility companies is not enough to fund a climate action plan.
“I am not averse to this season considering a bit of a tax increase to address some of these health and safety and security needs that the schools clearly need,” he said.
Marcoplos spoke to Orange County teachers who live outside the county in order to find ways to build homes near schools, so that teachers have affordable housing options nearby. He also said he wants to prioritize repairs on existing housing units.
“It is a proven fact that home repair money does more good per capita than building new affordable housing,” he said.
Price said she wants to put money into existing housing stock, such as the urgent repair program. She said she supports the continuation of funding Habitat for Humanity’s Brush with Kindness program, which has been completing home repair programs in Orange County since 2010.
“For the next four years, I’m looking forward to focusing more intently on three things: access, opportunity, and inclusion," she said. "When I say access I mean access to decent housing, nutritious food, quality education for our kids, and basic healthcare.”
But Price opposed a tax increase for the climate action plan, saying Orange County should partner with utility companies to help fund some of the county’s projects addressing climate change.
Dorosin identified addressing socioeconomic disparities as his main focus.
"Affordable housing, maintaining economic opportunity and economic diversity and ensuring we have an equitable education system are my three main priorities.”
Dorosin said he wants to revisit the zoning process in Orange County. He also recommended making multiple housing options available on all properties that are currently zoned as single family residential.
“Single family zoning is a legacy of racial segregation, and if every lot had accessory structures and multi-family units, we could increase housing diversity,” he said.
Hamilton stressed the importance of funding Orange County schools.
“I believe we do not have to sacrifice education in order to meet our priorities of economic development, equity, and the environment,” she said.
She identified building improvements as an important need for the school system.
“I think we need to have a plan, and I think we need to look at funding sources. I’ve been going through the Orange County budget and I see that there’s a sales tax that is dedicated to schools, and how we allocate that money makes a difference towards the crumbling buildings that affect our students,” Hamilton said.
Rich, the current chair of the Board, identified three goals for her next term.
“My three main topics are economic development and jobs, climate and the environment, and social justice,” she said.
Rich said Orange County needs to focus on building affordable housing outside of rural areas, where utilities and resources are more limited than urban areas.
Fowler said she would try to pressure utility companies and the state government to fund a climate action plan rather than supporting an increase in taxes.
“I think our environmental sustainability efforts should align with what our current obligations are, such as renovating schools to make them more energy efficient,” Fowler said. “I don't think it’s cost effective to use local funds. I think it’s more effective to pressure utilities, as well as our state and federal governments, to take action on climate.”
Fowler also said she wants to focus on improving the Orange County schools.
“To me, funding our schools well is my top priority, I would also like to work on expanding Pre-K, and issues such as affordability and transportation justice, environmental sustainability and economic development," she said.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.