Candidate Q & A: Carl Erquiaga

County commision candidate Carl Erquiaga, right, and Mark Feest discuss an issue after Erquiaga spoke to the Churchill County Central Republican Committee during lunch on Wednesday.

County commision candidate Carl Erquiaga, right, and Mark Feest discuss an issue after Erquiaga spoke to the Churchill County Central Republican Committee during lunch on Wednesday.

On running against another Republican, on what major points would you emphasize you differ from your opponent?

Experience – When a person is elected to an office like County Commissioner there is a considerable amount of self-education that must take place before one can make informed decisions that do not adversely impact some other facet of county government. Gaining an understanding of processes like budgeting and governmental accounting can take several years. Institutional knowledge that is lost when an elected office changes hands is great and can result in less than ideal decisions being made.

Ties to the community — I am a native of Fallon, as were both of my parents. I raised my children here and my granddaughters are growing up here. I grew up on a farm and have worked in private business. All these things give me the ability to govern with the future in mind while preserving as much of our local custom and culture as possible.

Do you feel the Nevada Association of Counties is a strong supporter of the counties and do you support or not support the organization?

NACO plays a vital role in county government. The work NACO does in the legislature for the counties is invaluable. NACO strives to maintain cohesiveness among the counties. I do support the organization.

There has been concern from the community as well as the commissioners against the Bureau of Land Management’s process of involving residents and county representatives in its decision making process. To what extent would you say the county’s current relationship with BLM is in need of reform?

In Churchill County we have had the luxury of working with excellent BLM staff in the Carson BLM District. Their staff has always worked to keep us informed and we have a relationship of mutual respect. Carson BLM has never denied Churchill County access to the coordination and input methods required by law. There are times when some residents may feel that their concerns are not receiving enough attention, but we have to understand that multiple use land management takes in a wide spectrum of concerns.

I will say that state and federal BLM officials have not always been so open to local input. Because of my unique experience with public land issues – from federal water rights issues on my family farm to my own work with wildlife and sportsman organizations to my service for eight years on the Commission, I understand the difference between levels of agencies and different personalities. I am prepared to continue to speak up for Churchill County and deliver results, because I know that this is not a one-size-fits-all problem or solution.

In regards to the Sage Grouse lawsuit, what do you think needs to be done to adequately protect local habitats?

Churchill County has not been greatly affected by the BLM Record of Decision. The Governor’s Office is working diligently with the BLM to resolve the major constraints that have been placed on Nevada in the name of protecting the sage grouse. Through NACO, I have been monitoring these efforts and those of the Attorney General in court. While the legal hurdles are dealt with, we also have to keep focused on other challenges and opportunities. Drought continues to be Churchill County’s greatest enemy to our natural resources. Good stewardship of the land will protect our local habitat. Active management like the range improvements done by the Smith Creek Ranch in eastern Churchill County will accomplish more than litigation.

Could state representatives from the governor down to the assembly manage state lands if the federal government relinquished control?

I do not believe the state could afford to adequately manage all the lands currently held by the federal government for the uses that we as Nevadans value. The cost of firefighting alone could bankrupt the state. The loss of federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding, which would cease if the lands were transferred, would be devastating to the counties. History shows that Nevada sold off 99.9% of the land it was granted at statehood. I believe that the cost of managing the land plus the constitutional requirement to manage state lands for maximum revenue would force the state to again sell off the best parts of Nevada, completely changing what we who live in Nevada cherish, whether it be recreation, hunting, grazing or other multiple use. Taking all federal lands is simply not an option. I support a balanced approach that would provide a path for the state to take some lands for economic development, some for preservation, and would instead improve the manner in which federal agencies manage the lands in their purview.

What voice/level of involvement in decision-making do you believe members of the community should have in Churchill County? How would you interpret the success of the public voice in its various boards and committees?

The voice of ALL community members is extremely important. We are elected to represent all county residents to the best of our ability. That does not mean we listen to only the most vocal individuals. We must get out in the community and listen to what people desire and draw from our ties to the community to make the decisions that best serve the entire population, all the while being fiscally responsible.

Some talk in higher education circles wants local government to pay their share toward education, such as with the community colleges. Would you support local funding for WNC or is this something the state should do because of Nevada’s uniqueness and small number of two-year education institutions?

For 40 years, Nevada has had a consolidated university and community college system. Other states turn community colleges over to local control, but that also means local funding. Churchill County could not support WNC on its own without raising taxes. I believe we must continue to hold our legislators accountable for adequate funding for community colleges that include career and technical education and campuses in rural Nevada.

Regarding budgeting, if elected, what programs and organizations in Churchill County would you seek to allocate more funds to/show greater support? Are there any in particular you consider underfunded/underutilized.

Given the fact that additional tax revenue is not in County’s immediate future, other than yearly adjustments to budgets and programs based on needs, the reality is allocating more funds to one program means cutting services somewhere else.

One of the most important areas Churchill County needs improvement on is our water and sewer system profitability. Unfortunately housing growth, with new service subscribers, is the only answer to improving that bottom line. That growth will only come with continued economic recovery. In the last several years the Commission has allocated additional funding to Economic Development with the goal of improving our own economy.

An area I would like to continue to focus support would be youth programs through Juvenile Probation, Parks and Recreation and Cooperative Extension. Partnering with groups like 4H, Community Coalition, Fallon Youth Club and others that focus on our youth are one way we can secure that our community continues to be a great place to live and raise families.

Every time there’s an election, a part of the electorate clamors for city and county consolidation of services. Do you support consolidation, and are there services that could benefit from serving both the county and city?

Services already exist that are shared by the city and county. Fire protection and law enforcement detention are two that come to mind. There may be efficiencies that could be improved if other services were consolidated but any such move would have to be the result of a mutual desire of both entities. Each has unique issues that may be best served under the current system. Both entities also have unique cultures that should be preserved. This should be an ongoing conversation, not a campaign slogan.

Churchill County is a leader in alternative energy, but state tax rebates have taken any financial benefit away from the county. Is this something we live with or is it something lawmakers can modify or change?

As a county commissioner, I support economic development efforts that generate jobs in our community. It is true that the state system abates taxes for the business entities involved in manner of these projects. But workers live in our community and pay our taxes, so there is a financial benefit here at home. At the same time, I encourage our elected legislators to closer monitor the value and impact of economic development projects. In the years ahead, there may have to be conversations about impact fees for schools and essential services, and the state should always be clear how many new jobs and related economic impacts we can expect when abatements are granted.

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