EL CENTRO – The race for the Imperial County Board of Supervisors District 2 position heated up Tuesday evening at the IID Condit Auditorium in El Centro, as three of the four candidates, Cheryl Viegas-Walker, Claudia Camarena, and Luis Antonio Plancarte, faced off in a debate focused on the environmental issues affecting the county.
Viegas-Walker opened with a promise to be a full-time supervisor focused on serving the community by creating jobs, better air quality and smart programs, combating poverty, homelessness and hunger, and protecting and restoring valuable resources, including agriculture and the Salton Sea. Viegas-Walker offers over 30 years of dedicated service to Imperial Valley which includes 19 years serving on the El Centro City Council where she also served four terms as mayor. Viegas-Walker currently serves on numerous boards including the Southern California Association of Government, League of California Cities, the ECRMC trustee board and Imperial County Transporation Commission.
“Leadership and experience have never mattered so much in the Imperial Valley. We need a full time advocate for quality of life issues that affect the county and impact our future,” said Walker.
Camarena introduced herself as a 43-year-resident of Imperial County who has dedicated her life to serving the needy and disadvantaged individuals in the county. With over 26 years of experience in public service, Camarena plans to emphasize on fighting poverty by increasing vocational training and college opportunities while maximizing law enforcement positions and funding to fight terrorism and reassure the safety of the community and nation, in addition to assisting with the restoration of the Salton Sea and environmental health issues. Camarena is an active member of the Imperial County Homeless Task Force and past member of the Catholic Charities House of Hope.
“For me, serving as a supervisor will not be a job; it is an extension of the service I have dedicated my life to,” said Camarena.
Luis Antonio Plancarte asked the community vote in his favor and assist him in protecting improvement and maintenance of agricultural infrastructure. His platform also lists working on regional water issues including the Salton Sea restoration along with energy creation, economic development, job creation and work force development. Plancarte said he can offer problem solving skills and coalitions building for public and private sectors in addition to an extensive business background that uniquely qualifies him to serve the community, specifically in a position where consensus is building in response long-term planning essential to the future of the county. Plancarte serves in numerous organizations including the ICOE Career Writings Initiative, Rotary International, IV Human Resources, El Centro Personnel Appeals Board, Economic Development Corporation, and Parks and Recreations. He is also a longtime supporter of the Boys and Girls Club.
“I look forward to bringing my skills to the Imperial County Board of Supervisors and to working for all those communities in our County and working on your behalf,” said Plancarte.
Pompeyo Tabarez Jr. was not present during the debate.
Questions for the candidates covered everything from the Williamson Act, current road conditions, county poverty issues, to the Salton Sea restoration. One specific question asked: “the County and the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) executed a memorandum of understanding in 2014, to work together on the Salton Sea initiative with far-reaching implications. How do you propose to work with the IID to ensure the State maintains its responsibility to the restoration of the Salton Sea?”
In response, Camarena said to prevent fines and issues that could affect residents, both the county and IID must work together as one force and assure the state that every aspect will be followed through.
“We need to make sure the county is not left on the wayside as with other issues where the state has not come through with their portion of agreement when the agreements were being made,” said Camarena.
Plancarte said building a coalition between the county and IID is more important now than ever to keep the community safe and improve the air quality.
“Salton Sea is something that has traveled over two counties and we cannot afford other areas to influence (us), either through federal, state or local counties, that are not working together. This opportunity is a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity and that is one that is built by forming coalitions and consensus, so that we can continue to move forward and not just jump on the bandwagon and say, ‘here’s an opportunity, we’ll take it.’ There’s a lot more to that. The idea would be to form local task forces and local groups to look at the longterm, how both of these organizations will benefit the county,” said Plancarte.
Walker said she has been actively involved with the Salton Sea restoration for numerous years and assured she would do everything in her power to help avoid an environmental nightmare by working diligently with both the county and state agencies to find a solution for the Salton Sea.
“This is an environmental disaster waiting to happen if we don’t continue to actively demand and actively engage our state legislature and hold them accountable for the restoration project and funding they have promised will come forward. We need to continue to come together and plead our case, before we hit that cliff in 2017 and we find ourselves facing an environmental nightmare. The Salton Sea needs to be saved and the state has a responsibility to do that,” said Walker.
Additionally, Walker said this was a call for action and she encouraged the community to log onto www.thesaltonseanow.com to learn more about this issue.
The Primary Election Candidate Forums are sponsored and presented by COLAB of Imperial County, the Imperial County Farm Bureau, Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association and the Brawley, El Centro and Imperial Chambers of Commerce.
Elections are scheduled for June 7.