The following are questions from audience members to candidates running for the 5th District Assembly seat at a candidates night last month in Mariposa.
Q1: Do you support investment in green businesses and if so, why?
Marc Boyd (Democrat): "The emerging green economy is the fastest growing sector of the economy ... I think the president was ill-advised to invest (in a green company that didn't do well) but I think Gov. Brown is doing a fantastic job bringing in green energy."
Mark Beldon (Independent): "Nothing should be mandated."
Tim Fitzgerald (Democrat): "This government has subsidized American business often," he said, citing muskets manufactured by the U.S. starting in colonial times and the transcontinental railroad. "Yes, I support it. They will make some mistakes, but if you don't put some money in it, it may not be good for the community as a whole."
Rico Oller (Republican): "I think global warming is crap. I am all for green energy; I will utilize it when people use their own money to do this. We should not pick the winners and losers."
Frank Bigelow (Republican): "Why are we subsidizing these (green) businesses? ... Guess what, government doesn't belong in business, we belong in business. It's our country."
Q2: Do you support a part-time legislature?
Bigelow: "Yes, I would love to spend more time with my kids and family, and it might get some common sense back in the chambers."
Oller: If there is a part-time legislature, there should also be a part-time bureaucracy, he said. "(Bureaucrats) take over where we leave off."
Fitzgerald: "We need people working full-time, not taking time off. The problems are very, very serious."
Beldon: "I'm going to do what you (the voters) want me to do."
Boyd: "I thought we already have a part-time legislature," Boyd joked. "Our assemblywoman didn't show up for four key votes last year ... If you have a part-time legislature, you will give a lot of power to your governor."
Q3: How do you go forward when facing political gridlock?
Bigelow: "I served as president of the State Association of Counties representing 58 counties ... Our job was to get the job done. We put our ideologies aside and focused on the issue at hand. That's how I've done it in the past and how I will do it in the state legislature."
Oller: With big issues, you can't compromise -- "We need to stand firm. This is not a time to be polite. This is a time to fight, or nothing will be left to fight for."
Fitzgerald: "I try to work with people rather than against people ... The two parties have fought over the budget every single year and we need a new solution."
Beldon: "I am a uniter, not a divider."
Boyd: Willingness to work with both parties and reach a compromise is important -- neither side may get what they want, but the job gets done.
Q4: How do you see issues facing our area as similar or dissimilar to the rest of the district?
Fitzgerald: The common interest in Yosemite: "I think Yosemite is your apple, and what is done in Yosemite directly affects the tourism (district-wide) and what happens here."
Beldon: The common tourism-related economy: "Mariposa is a powerhouse of tourism."
Oller: The state could lighten regulations on things like logging and mining, he said. "We raise our children here and they can't find jobs."
Boyd: "We're all hurting, businesses are closing ... I'm calling for an economic summit. Let's all get together and see how you can have more confidence in your business; a comprehensive strategy to take advantage of this beautiful district ... The cities are doing well but rural areas are really in trouble."
Bigelow: "We have the best of all places in the state" and we want more young people to be able to stay here. "We (also) need to take back control of water."
Q5: Are the rising demands for charter and home schooling the future of education?
Oller: Parents' choice and "competition is what makes everything better."
Fitzgerald: "If we allow charter schools to become the solution then we are missing the boat. Public schools have done a good job."
Beldon: Stating because he has no children and is not a teacher, he passed on the question.
Boyd: The government should not invest in private schools because it will hurt already suffering public schools.
Bigelow: "The Chawanakee school district has had tremendous success."Students who live three miles from Chawanakee should not have to travel 20 miles just because of district boundaries, he said.
Q6: How do you feel about new legislation that would allow for Highway 140 near Ferguson Slide to be restored due to an endangered species?
Fitzgerald: "I think this (question) runs counter to Rico's claim that we are not suffering from global warming if species are dying off. We don't want to contribute to it (global warming), but we don't want to retreat from the way civilized life has been."
Beldon: "I'm not going to answer without all the facts."
Boyd: Boyd recalled a hike where he learned that a small, scrawny tree produced a berry that cures cancer. "Every plant we lose, we could be losing a cure ... We are in an endangered species crisis."
Oller: There is not a reliable methodology that shows the importance of each plant or animal -- $50,000 was spent on a construction project to move a bridge around one elderberry bush, he said.
Bigelow: "We as a society have grown to appreciate all different kinds of plants and animals, and we also were given the knowledge to be rational." He said a construction project was stalled for three years -- costing almost a million dollars -- due to an endangered species.
Q7: A recent rural fire fee charges $150 per structure to help support the fire department -- Why aren't urban residents charged a fee for police because they have higher crime rates?
Boyd: "I'm not in favor of it, I think it is unfair, but we can't make any more cuts."
Beldon: The rural fire fee is about Gov. Brown "trying to find ways to add money to the general fund."
Oller: The governor is holding important services "hostage" with this unfair fee.
Fitzgerald: "No one is happy about it. Police and fire is the state's responsibility, it is not the counties and cities."
Bigelow: The fire captain of Station 17 for 37 years said "I'd be happy to pay $150 if I thought I was going to get something out of it, (but we're not going to get any more local assistance by paying this fee)."
Q8: What do you think of high speed rail?
Bigelow: Supervisors were first told nothing would stop high speed rail and he didn't oppose it, he said. He said he now opposes it and cost estimates have grown from $20 million $98.5 billion. "We (the supervisors) voted four to one to oppose high speed rail."
Oller: "I would have opposed it (from the start). This is social engineering ... Frank voted for it five times. It was not a good bill. Don't vote for a bill when bureaucracy can screw it up."
Fitzgerald: "I spent most of my life ... in Silicon Valley and I could have used BART or high speed rail, but this is not helping anyone that it's serving."
Beldon: "We may be able to vote it out, and I probably won't be voting for it."
Boyd: He said he's studied it extensively and costs are going down because cities are pitching in to build sections. When the interstate highway system was first built it was also seen as expensive but has since reaped far-reaching economic benefits, he said.
"What is it going to cost if we don't do it (build high speed rail)? We'll have to build more highways and and airports."