Richard Barb is running for county supervisor to represent District 3. As a successful businessman, a specialty contractor for draperies and shutters, Barb said he has a “strong passion to see a reduction in roadblocks and obstacles to the local economy.”
Becoming an agent of regulatory reform comes in high on Barb’s list of first things to take up if he is elected. Describing some of his short- and long-term goals to the Mountain Democrat’s editorial board recently, the candidate stressed a commitment to revitalizing El Dorado County. He said his extensive community contacts would help him be effective in “driving reform.”
Acknowledging that not all “onerous regulatory obstacles are county imposed,” he suggested that “the county could have significant influence” in many cases. He also cited a study he’d seen that reported that for private industry, El Dorado County is the “second worst county in the state” in which to do business.
“There are inequities there (such as unjust injunctions) that are not beneficial to the community,” he said. “We are losing about one business a week as regulatory fees and tax obstacles kill jobs.”
In particular, Barb said the local mining and timber industries need to be encouraged rather than suppressed, but the key to long-term economic vitality should be light industry and clean manufacturing. That kind of development would bring “livable wages and long-term jobs to the county,” he said.
While the proposed Diamond Springs retail center project is in District 3, Barb noted that he has not been involved in that issue but that he “will go with the investments and decisions that have been made” regarding the project.
He would have preferred to see the proposed development “terminate” a bit closer to Highway 50 to preserve the “personality of Diamond Springs and El Dorado.” And the larger issue, the “heart of the focus needs to be not retail,” he said.
“Retail will take care of itself… Leakage will not be fixed by retail.” (The term leakage is generally used to describe the loss of sales and tax revenue that goes “down the hill” mostly to Folsom and Sacramento County.)
Attracting large outfits such as Costco would affect local business, relative to trying to balance leakage versus potential harm.
“Small businesses will be hurt anyway. Internet sales are changing the face of business all over the world,” he said.
“We need light manufacturing, because retail and the service sector just move the same money around. And a livable wage would allow families to pay the bills and still be able to get ahead.”
Barb said “budgeting and spending” are no different in the public sector than in business. “Wise decision-making and personal control” by all in authority are attributes he would like to see more of in government and attributes he would bring to the job of supervisor.
“Money must only be spent according to the county charter,” Barb said. “The Board of Supervisors has every responsibility to be very frugal with public funds, and the issue is how to spend wisely to keep a balanced budget.”
He credits the current board with “pretty good oversight,” noting that the “current fiscal condition is outstanding, something like fifth in the state.”
Barb had strong words for the county’s “animal shelter” boondoggle. Progress has been slow despite a $6 million allocation that has been on the books for years. Originally proposed for construction in District 3, he said the county has made “bad decisions” with respect to the proposed location and its seeming inability to move forward on the project.
Local control is personal as well as political with Barb. He opposes consolidation of fire districts and school districts and said “consolidation would take away the heart of the community.” That said, he added that all agencies should be coordinated to improve their economic efficiency.
In that vein, he said he would “hunt all over the nation looking for jurisdictions that have made successful information technology installations.” Upgrading the county’s IT systems has been at the forefront of the board’s and the Chief Administrative Office’s recent launch of an “investment strategy” to replace a more than 20-year old, expensive and faltering system.
Asked about relations with public employee unions, Barb said, “I have very strong loyalty to employees in any situation, public or private. County employees have faced reductions in force, loss of overtime pay, and they’ve been taking the hit along with the rest of the community.”
He added that revitalizing the economy would be significant to protecting employees. And to do that, he would work with the chambers of commerce, the Farm Bureau and as a member of the Sacramento Builders Association “who have a serious interest in coming here.”
Barb would like to see an effort to recruit clean, light manufacturing firms from wherever they might be and find ways to provide incentives, not to include using public funds, he stressed.
Revisiting the issue of regulatory reform, Barb said change has to come from the top. No one is the villain in his view except a “culture mindset” that starts at the Board of Supervisors level, “and the staff doesn’t always do what they’re told,” he said.
However, Barb does not advocate for fewer employees or fewer services and has “no intention to cut anyone’s jobs,” if he becomes a supervisor.
More jobs and less government, he described as his mantra. He cited the county’s Oak Woodland Management Plan as representative of “the growth of bureaucratic, regulatory intrusion into our lives; there’s no rationale for many of our regulations.”
Likewise, the controversial state-imposed “fire fee” Barb calls a tax and as such “is completely illegal and should be overturned in the courts.”
If elected, he said he would look to his district first but would represent the entire county and would “see the bigger picture.”
“I will be truly connected to the community, and I have always practiced an open door policy. I’ll be ready to do the job 110 percent on day one. I don’t burn out,” he promised.
County residents for 17 years, Barb and Suzanne, his wife of 34 years, have home-schooled all of their nine children, two of whom are still at home. As a “man of faith,” Barb said “removing the values and propaganda (in public schools) from the children’s education” has been the significant motivator for home schooling and keeping a commitment “to invest in the family.”
“Public education is not wrong, and our county has an outstanding schools system, but California spends $64 billion a year on education and is not producing high- quality students. It’s a matter of accountability (of teachers, administrators and the whole system.),” he said.
Earlier this year, Barb described his overall philosophy of government and good citizenship.
A significant challenge for a county supervisor is “competing property rights,” Barb acknowledged while looking on the positive side.
“People choose to limit their freedom to a certain extent and practice self-control. I trust that you’re going to do the right thing and look out for me and I’ll do the same for you.”
Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or email@example.com. Follow @CDaleyMtDemo.