2nd District Challenger Bud Rogers: Humboldt Should Be a Charter County

Bud Rogers, pictured with grandson Callou, says becoming a charter county would allow Humboldt greater local control. (Photo courtesy of Bud Rogers)

Bud Rogers, pictured with grandson Callou, says becoming a charter county would allow Humboldt greater local control. (Photo courtesy of Bud Rogers)

Bud Rogers wants Estelle Fennell’s Second District Board of Supervisors Seat. But that doesn’t mean he thinks poorly of her or of the job she’s been doing.

“I’m not against Estelle Fennell. I love Estelle. I’m running a positive campaign,” the 67-year-old woodworker said last week.

When pressed, he initially refused to make any sort of criticism. But he eventually volunteered this: “Estelle Fennell is perceived as being [in favor] of business interests regarding development. We need development. But it needs to be rational.”

Rogers has run for the Second District seat before — back in 2004, when the incumbent was Roger Rodoni. The reason he entered that race — Rodoni ended up winning — had to do in part with the Patriot Act, the notorious measure to beef up internal security that was signed into law by President George W. Bush in the weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“When the Patriot Act was passed, I felt the supervisors should have said something. Instead, there was not a peep to defend the Constitution,” Rogers said.

This time around there isn’t a specific controversy that’s motivating Rogers to throw his hat in the ring. Instead, he’s running because he thinks the Board of Supervisors as a whole could benefit from someone who tends to think outside of the box.

“I’m using this opportunity as a platform to bring forward ideas that are not being brought forward at the level of the Supervisors,” Rogers explained.

At the top of the list is Rogers’s desire to see Humboldt County become a charter county, a status currently retained by 14 of the state’s 58 counties. (A proposal to have Mendocino County become a charter county is slated to come before its voters in June, Rogers said.)

According to the website of the California State Association of Counties, general law counties such as Humboldt “adhere to state law as to the number and duties of county elected officials. Charter counties, on the other hand, have a limited degree of home rule authority” over such matters.

“A charter does not give county officials extra authority over local regulations, revenue-raising abilities, budgetary decisions, or intergovernmental relations,” the CSAC website adds.

While it might not sound like charter counties have powers that are dramatically different than non-charter counties, Rogers said that a county with its own governing charter has greater control over a host of things, ranging from finances to economic development to environmental protection.

In particular, he said charter counties whose actions are legally challenged — he used the example of agricultural interests suing in response to the passage of a no-GMO ordinance — are in a better position to prevail in court.

“With the kind of [county] government we have now [our power and authority are] subsumed under the State Constitution. If we were a charter county, ordinances would have the same effect [as state laws]. It would put us on a higher legal status to protect our county.”

“County charters are like mini-constitutions,” Rogers went on. They confer “greater autonomy and sovereignty to protect our county.”

On other matters, Rogers said that as a supervisor he would “explore ways to create more housing in Humboldt County.”

“We have a homeless problem. It’s getting worse. It’s a complex issue but it’s not opaque.”

One possible solution suggested by Rogers is to, in effect, jump on the bandwagon of the “small house movement” that picked up steam in the late 1990s after the publication of a book called The Not So Big House by architect Sarah Susanka.

As supervisor, Rogers said he would give priority to “figuring out a way to create tiny home villages” — that is, clusters of homes that are affordable because of their diminutive size.

In the lexicon of the movement, houses ranging in size from 400 square feet to 1,000 square feet are deemed “small,” while those less than 400 square feet are considered “tiny.”

Building such villages “would put folks to work,” Roger argued.

“Some people want the homeless to disappear off the face of the Earth, but that’s not going to happen,” he said flatly.

As for the ubiquitous issue of marijuana, Rogers noted that the Humboldt Mendocino Marijuana Advocacy Project, or HuMMAP, has stated that it intends to sue Humboldt County over its new medical marijuana cultivation ordinance.

Rogers said he agrees with the group’s complaint that the ordinance doesn’t do enough to curb large grows. “I think it allows [the local marijuana] economy to be taken over by large business interests,” he remarked.

But at the same time, Rogers confessed to a bit of cannabis fatigue. “I’m tired of the brouhaha about marijuana. In my opinion, they should just legalize it and forget about it.”

“We should be proud of other things we do here,” such as a wood products industry that produces specialty items, he went on,

“With our own local hardwoods we can make beautiful products. As a supervisor you can promote a ‘Humboldt Made’ brand.”

One more innovation Rogers has in mind is to have Humboldt County’s buildings go solar. “I had this idea 12 years ago but Rodoni didn’t like it. He said it should be [done] by private interests. I haven’t talked to Estelle about it.”

Rogers, a Vietnam veteran who has three children and four grandchildren, keeps in touch with the world at large in a couple of ways. As a musician who regularly performs at Calico’s in Garberville — he plays a 12-string banjo along with a harmonica. And as the longtime host of the KMUD radio program Edge of the Herd.

“We’ve had lots of really interesting and informed guests on the show so I consider myself pretty damned informed about a lot of things. It’s a way for me to actualize my potential here on Earth,” Rogers remarked.

When asked what he thought his chances of beating Fennell were, Rogers said: “Probably not very good.”

“But I’m not doing this just to win. I’m doing it to bring ideas forward.”

Referring to the fact that he is Fennell’s only challenger, he added: “It’s not healthy for someone to run unopposed. It’s not healthy for our democracy. This is about giving people a choice.”