Whether it's national or local politics, its never too soon to begin campaigning for the next election. While current Madera County Sheriff-Coroner John Anderson's term isn't complete until January 2015, candidates are lining up to compete in next June's primary election. Over the next several months, the Oakhurst/Coarsegold Tea Party will be inviting each of the three announced candidates to speak to the community.
Former CHP Officer and Realtor Dennis Fairbanks, 62, was first to be asked to the group's monthly meeting on Sept. 17. Fairbanks addressed the group at the Best Western Gateway Inn Restaurant on Highway 41.
Fairbanks, a Coarsegold resident and one-time Honorary Mayor of Oakhurst made a clear and straight-forward speech before opening the floor to questions.
Beginning by detailing his 31-year carer in law enforcement as well as his time serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, Fairbanks stated he had both the passion and experience for the job. But his actual motivation for seeking office came from two recent experiences. One was serving on the Madera County Grand Jury for two years. This, Fairbanks claims, gave him exposure to the workings of Madera County government and insight into the institutional problems faced by any new sheriff.
The other experience was being in Church at St. Luke's and hearing the admonishment from his pastor that "... too many good Christians are sitting in pews and should be running for office." Apparently, the congregation made it clear they felt this was a message for him, and he took it to heart.
As for his governing philosophy, Fairbanks stated he "follows two laws God's law and the Constitution of the United States."
He made it clear he is a member of The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association and adheres to their "line in the sand" on gun control laws, explaining he would unequivocally refuse to enforce any law or statute that violated the Second Amendment rights of U.S. Citizens, be they Federal or State.
Going a bit further, in a policy that is sure to be popular in the Sierra, Fairbanks stated that all law-abiding citizens with clear records should be allowed "carry-concealed weapons permits."
"You shouldn't have to prove to me you deserve a CCW permit," Fairbanks said.
When queried about his solution to ongoing problems with the homeless in the Oakhurst Community Park, Fairbanks was blunt.
"I will have a zero tolerance policy," he said. "Every time an officer goes to the park they will be issuing a citation or making an arrest" with the end goal of making life consistently difficult and unpleasant for those currently ruining the park experience.
When pushed on the fact that the district attorney will not prosecute, Fairbanks said "citizens must put pressure on the D.A. to actually do their job."
But the failure of the district attorney to prosecute would not stop the sheriff's department from making arrests.
Fairbanks pointed out that this approach by the sheriff's department and the California Highway Patrol was very successful in restoring order to the Bass Lake 4th of July festivities after difficult times a few years earlier, bringing it back to the family-oriented event it is today. He saw no reason that an aggressive, zero tolerance policy should not be able to do the same for the community park.
This approach encouraged Tony Ward of the Friends of Ahwahnee Hills Park to state, "The reason we haven't opened the park in Ahwahnee is because we can't count on law enforcement to keep it safe."
Fairbanks outlined several other points in his speech, including consolidation of services to eliminate waste, rapidly hiring new deputies for long open positions, commissioning a feasibility study on the sheriff's department re-taking control over the county jail, reinstating the Chaplain's program, increasing volunteer opportunities and relaxing the requirements to qualify as a reserve sheriff's deputy.
The Tea Party has yet to announce speaking dates for sheriff candidates, undersheriff Michael Salvador, and Greg Noll, a detective's sergeant with the Fresno Police Department.