First District Humboldt County Supervisor Rex Bohn, right, and his challenger Cliff Berkowitz faced off Thursday in a debate on KEET-TV. (Screenshots)
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Humboldt County 1st District supervisor candidates Rex Bohn and Cliff Berkowitz took more jabs at each other Thursday in a live broadcast forum — Berkowitz questioning the incumbent’s decisions, Bohn criticizing what he characterized as his challenger’s presumptions about the job.

Bohn, who has served since 2012 and consistently promised to bring business to Humboldt County, began the debate, moderated by the League of Women Voters of Humboldt County, by describing the 1st District seat as the “easiest job in the world until the day I started the job.”

The incumbent later took exception to his opponent’s characterization of how the Board of Supervisors oversees permitting county land.

Berkowitz, until recently a DJ on the radio station KHUM, slammed the county’s decisions over jail infrastructure and promised to focus on mental health as a supervisor.

Here are some of the issues raised during Thursday night’s forum:

Land permits

“We need a level playing field,” Berkowitz said about the Board of Supervisors’ general plan for zoning around the county. “It is critical we all play by the same rules. Having a friend in high places shouldn’t make any difference whatsoever.”

The candidate emphasized that focus should be lent to the county’s agricultural areas and timberland production.

Bohn took exception to what he described as his opponent’s “innuendos and statements of ‘friends in high places,’ ” calling them baseless and citing state laws as having guided the county’s urban planning.

“We can’t circumvent them for anybody,” Bohn said of state regulations.

The incumbent promised that the county will soon offer a one-stop shop for permitting and land-use concerns in Eureka. He said his experience working with 57 counties throughout the state has provided insight on best practices.

Transportation

Referencing a Ferndale City Council vote not to push for more public transit, Bohn said transportation needs in the Eel River Valley are being properly addressed.

He also said the county will soon try giving employees free bus passes to incentivize transit.

Berkowitz repeatedly mentioned that he spent years working in Ferndale — in this case, he cited his job location to suggest many of the town’s residents do “wish there was a bus service.”

The challenger promised to assess at bus schedules based on workers’ hours.

Salt River restoration

Over his years commuting to Ferndale, Berkowitz said, he’s passed by the Salt River many times, and had good things to say Thursday about efforts to restore the watershed.

Bohn gave more specifics on the restoration project, saying it’s expected to be wrapped by 2022 or 2023. He said he’s attended a host of community meetings on the topic.

“I think my opponent would know more if he went to one of those (community) meetings,” Bohn added. “We go to meetings in Ferndale.”

Jail and juvenile hall

The two candidates sparred again over the proposed expansion of the county jail: Berkowitz said the renovation will mean more future inmates while Bohn countered that it would increase mental-health services for those already incarcerated.

On the new juvenile hall project — which the Times-Standard has reported is stalled for nearly two years past its initial target date for construction — Bohn said the building is “coming to completion as we speak.”

The incumbent said the current facility houses three juveniles convicted of murder and five others convicted repeatedly of robbery. Berkowitz countered that the “vast majority” of juvenile hall inmates are non-violent criminals.

“We need to have more compassion in dealing with these kids,” Berkowitz said. “They’re children!”

He advocated building a new facility for mental health instead of the planned juvenile hall.

The debate can be seen in full at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjPsAJ7CxAg.

Shomik Mukherjee can be reached at 707-441-0504.

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