The two candidates for the Board of Supervisors District 2 seat squared off in a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters in Davis on May 7, weighing in on everything from climate change and drought to affordable housing and social services.
Davis resident and climate activist Juliette Beck and Davis Vice Mayor Lucas Frerichs are vying to succeed retiring Supervisor Don Saylor in representing a district that includes much of Davis and UC Davis, as well as the city of Winters, and stretches west to the county line.
As they have throughout their campaigns, Frerichs touted his experience in local governance, both as a City Council member and representative on numerous multi-jurisdictional agencies, while Beck focused on her climate adaptation work and the need for greater action on that front, as well as the need for female representation at the county level.
The forum, held in person at the Davis City Hall community chambers, featured questions on specific topics as well as a audience-generated questions.
The candidates were first asked what they believe are the three most pressing issues facing Yolo County and District 2.
Frerichs cited high staff turnover recently at the county level, including in high-profile positions such as county administrator and director of health and human services, saying, “there’s a real need to bring some stability to the county government structure.”
Additionally, he said, are climate change issues impacting the county like drought and wildfires.
Finally, he said, “counties really exist to provide human social services to those that need them the most,” and cited mental health, in-home supportive services, public health and childcare as key issues that need addressing.
For her part, Beck said, “the three most pressing issues for Yolo County are climate, climate and climate.”
“We are on the front lines of an epic, unprecedented climate crisis,” she said.
“We’ve seen extended drought with no end in sight. Already our ground water has dropped 10 feet from last year all across the county. We’re on the frontlines of wildfires, as Lucas mentioned, and all the issues that we care about and that we need to address in the county are going to be exacerbated — the problems, inequality, homelessness, the lack of food security, the lack of water, all of these issues are only going to be worsened by the existing climate crisis if we do not get off of our addiction to greenhouse gas emissions.”
The candidates were asked to weigh in specifically on the topic of affordable housing.
“There’s a lot that needs to be done to address that,” said Frerichs.
“But the county,” he said, “doesn’t frankly do a lot of development of housing; it’s been left very much to the cities to do that.
“But in terms of the affordable housing side of it, there’s a lot the county and the cities are doing together in collaboration on issues of homelessness, funding Paul’s Place… sanctioned camping and the county does provide a lot of funding for wraparound services so it’s not just making sure that there’s adequate affordable housing options but also that the populations using that housing have access to services as well.”
“It’s just imperative as well for the county to continue to work with the private sector, too,” Frerichs said. “Non-profit housing providers, healthcare providers, the interfaith community, and other partners such as UC Davis to make sure we provide additional resources and options for housing throughout the county.”
Beck said she supports much of what Frerichs mentioned and also would support more innovation on housing, particularly co-housing.
“Even though our priority is preserving farmland, I think we have an opportunity to evolve to have a new type of ecological co-housing on county land that would allow us to build small tiny homes where people could afford to live for $500 to $1,000 a month in a way that’s completely ecologically sustainable,” Beck said.
She cited as examples Muir Commons and Dos Pinos and other locations in Davis “where people are dying to live” and said, “co-housing should be brought to the county with first prioritizing agricultural workers.”
Those communities, she said, could offer shared cars and resources and have a low carbon footprint.
Frerichs said he agreed on the concept of co-housing, but asked Beck, “where do you propose to put some of this type of housing on county land?”
Beck replied, “the first start would be where the (Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus) is proposed.”
“It’s farmland and it’s over 100 acres that’s being proposed to be paved over and put in (commercial buildings) that I believe will stay vacant…”
Both candidates said the county needs to be addressing the impacts of drought, particularly on the agricultural community, now.
Beck noted that water users will be receiving far less surface water this year and will be pumping more ground water.
“Wells are going dry and this is an urgent emergency,” she said.
“We need to be convening a drought emergency response working group to make sure that no one’s going without water… I know the county’s already on top of some of this but there needs to be a lot more work and we need to shift to ecological, restorative, regenerative, natural low-water landscapes here in Davis and elsewhere in urban settings.”
Frerichs agreed on the need for bringing everybody together now.
“The county needs to be demonstrating leadership and convening folks together … including the cities, UC Davis, Yocha Dehe tribal leadership, farmers, water districts, environmental justice advocates — everybody needs to be coming to the table to figure out how we can do additional reduction, conservation, recycling and reimagining water usage here in Yolo County. There’s a lot more than can be done,” said Frerichs.
Asked to list the top three things they intend to accomplish if elected county supervisor, the two candidates listed different priorities.
Beck said the first thing she wants to do “is invest in community wealth building.” She also would focus on youth empowerment.
“I’d like to see youth at the table where decisions about their future are being made,” said Beck. “When youth get to the table, there’s a greater sense of possibility about what the changes are… and the solutions become much more innovative.”
Finally, Beck said, she would focus on childhood obesity.
“We have a 40 percent childhood obesity rate in Yolo County. The solutions I’m suggesting around access to nature, engaging children in our natural areas, outdoor areas… those kinds of solutions would be a very good investment for our future generations,” she said.
The top three things Frerichs would accomplish begins with the creation of a countywide office of equity and inclusion.
“There is a complete lack of that kind of a lens that’s cast across the county’s entire operations …,” he said.
“Additionally, … advocating for a strategic roadmap, a sort of strategic plan, regarding youth, families and children. I think that’s essential. But also opportunities from cradle to career.
“Lastly,” said Frerichs, “I think just being a good public servant. Being responsive to constituent concerns. Solving problems. I think that is the way to really conduct myself and really work on solving issues of importance to citizens throughout the county.”
In their closing statements, both candidates touted their accomplishments and what they would bring to county-level service.
“It’s really important for Yolo to have leaders who know how to get things done, who have a track record of doing that. And I think it’s really important as well engaging regional partners. There are some absolutely pressing issues … that I think are critical and lot of it frankly is not just going to be done at the county level; it’s going to be done in consultation and collaboration with the cities and so many others — the university, Yocha Dehe tribal nation, (others) throughout the region, but also in … partnership with our state and federal partners as well,” said Frerichs.
“I have a track record over the last 10 years of serving on the council… as vice mayor now, and I really look forward to the possibility of serving on the Board of Supervisors and I commit to remaining just as responsive and engaged as a supervisor as I have been on the City Council.”
Beck said the future of the county and the planet are at stake in this election and she believes, “the vision I provide for future generations is what’s going to actually transition us fairly and justly to a more sustainable place where we can sustain a healthy food system, sustain our water, sustain a high quality of life for future generations.
“But that will not happen if we continue with business as usual. It will not happen if we don’t have bold climate leadership, which I’ve demonstrated with the (Yolo County) Climate Action Commission, which has already adopted over 10 early action proposals,” said Beck. “I intend to deepen my work and my commitment with the Climate Action Commission and bring a breath of fresh air and much-needed lived experience of women, youth and families to the Board of Supervisors.”
Davis Media Access covered the May 7 candidate forum and posted the video on the league’s website at https://lwvdavisarea.org.