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June 5, 2018 — California Primary Election
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Humboldt CountyCandidate for Supervisor, District 5

Photo of Steve Madrone

Steve Madrone

Teacher / Executive Director
3,607 votes (50.71%)Winning
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • A safe, healthy, and sustainable community with living wage jobs
  • Reducing crime, addiction and homelessness
  • Ensuring clean drinking water, rivers, forests and beaches



Profession:Executive Director of Watershed Restoration Group
Consultant/Contractor/Owner, Madrone Enterprises (2006–current)
Natural Resources Director, Redwood Community Action Agency (RCAA) (1993–2005)
Natural Resources Project Manager, Redwood Community Action Agency (RCAA) (1985–1993)
Council Member, Vice Mayor, Police Commissioner, Blue Lake City Council — Elected position (1985–1986)
Planning Commissioner, City of Blue Lake — Elected position (1984–1985)
Natural Resources Specialist, Redwood Community Action Agency (RCAA) (1982–1983)
Stream Surveyor, Coastal Headwaters Association Mattole River Basin (1981–1983)


Humboldt State Unversity M.S., Watershed Management (2011)
Humboldt State University B.S., Natural Resources (1975)

Community Activities

Trinidad Bay Watershed Council, Founding Member and Consultant (2006–current)
Volunteer, RCAA Little River Trail & Bridge Project (2005–current)
Volunteer & Founding Member, Mattole Restoration Council (1983–current)
Regional Watershed Coordinator, California Watershed Forum (2000–2004)
Board Member, California Urban Creeks Council (1995–2000)

Who supports this candidate?

Organizations (9)

  • Humboldt Democrats
  • Central Labor Council
  • Democratic Central Committee
  • Karuk Tribe
  • National Union of Healthcare Workers
  • Yurok Tribe
  • SEIU California
  • AFSCME Humboldt County
  • Hoopa Valley Tribe

Political Beliefs

Position Papers

It's How You Grow, Not What You Grow


Encouraging environmentally friendly and regulated cannabis growth

Economics 101 teaches us that carrots are more effective than sticks in encouraging compliance by any industry. So what are the incentives for the cannabis industry? Why is cannabis being regulated more intensely than grapes, cattle or any other agricultural endeavor? And why do we continue to deal with one problem in a piecemeal fashion rather than looking at comprehensive regulations.

Imagine a vibrant and effective set of financial incentives that would be so effective that enforcement would become a smaller, but enforceable program. What would that look like? Does the creation of more laws that we do not enforce make sense?

Currently, the incentives for cannabis growing are, "become compliant and you get to grow legally". That's it. These new regulatory compliance requirements make the growing more expensive while the revenues continue to drop. This lack of financial incentives is reflected in the applications to date for compliance. There have been 2,337 applications so far and many are "grossly incomplete," according to John Ford, Humboldt County Planning director. It is estimated that there are more than 10,000 grows in Humboldt County. The enforcement agencies talk tough about increasing enforcement but a lack of funding and personnel make that difficult. So most of the grows stay uncompliant and the environmental damage continues to mount.

Even if enforcement were to quadruple, most of the grows would still go un-regulated. As long as that is the case, compliance will fall way short of what is needed for the industry to evolve and come out of the shadows. So how do we increase compliance and make limited law enforcement more effective? We do it through financial incentives for good land stewardship and rewards for being compliant and investing in protecting the land and water. The better the incentives, the more that come into compliance and the less enforcement is needed. It is a simple formula.

Perhaps we can learn from previous incentive programs like solar credits. Once the credits became significant and a write off on your income taxes became possible, hundreds of thousands of homes went solar. It is not complicated. Something about horses, water and carrots.

One of the biggest problems with current cannabis legislation is the focus on just one plant, just one industry. Such narrow regulatory approaches rarely succeed. A more effective approach would be to develop regulation that is focused on how you grow rather than what you grow. If it is legal to grow it, then let's focus on the land use practices, not the plant. Some of this focus comes from cannabis being illegal to grow until recently. Yes, there are many bad land use practices still happening, so it is an easy target and should be regulated. But are we being effective? The industry is being blamed for many damages, rightfully so, but, for issues like low flows in our streams, it is not the only culprit. But that's a topic of another article. Let's just say that North Coast hydrology and base flows in our streams and rivers is more complicated than just the growers.

One way to approach cannabis regulation, and for that matter most agricultural activities, would be to develop a compliance program focused on land uses. Those landowners practicing good stewardship would be eligible for financial tax and permit incentives. The program would be results-oriented and involve audits of land-use activities every one to three years depending on the activity and its intensity. The new regulation encompassing these incentives could be part of a Stewardship Act that would involve county, state and federal legislation to enact.

The effort would start at the county level. Counties update their general plans and zoning ordinances every 10 years or so. They could add a new category called a Stewardship Overlay Zone (SOZ), while maintaining the underlying zoning, be it residential, agricultural, industrial, agricultural or Timber Production Zone (TPZ). To qualify for the SOZ, you would agree to a land-use inspection every one to three years by a team of land-use experts. In rural areas, this team might include a representative from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the local Resource Conservation District (RCD) and a member of the local watershed council. In urban areas, the inspection team might include a public works employee, drainage expert and a planner. Team make up could be determined at the local level.

The point is, as a landowner, you get an inspection and if you are 80 percent or better on implementing Best Management Practices (BMP) than you qualify for significant tax and permit incentives. The BMPs would be spelled out in handouts from NRCS, RCDs and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Workshops and technical assistance would be offered to landowners. It would seem that for cannabis farmers, timber harvesting and many other agricultural activities, there is already an audit requirement so this would be nothing new. What would be new is that once qualifying for the SOZ, you would qualify for significant financial incentives.

Incentives could include tax credits against your income tax liability. These tax credits could include all expenses made by the landowner to protect public trust values of water, soil and wildlife. Efforts to control erosion, protect streams, store winter rain water and protect wildlife could be tax write-offs, thereby encouraging damage-preventing land use practices. Once qualified as a Stewardship landowner, you could be placed in a streamlined permit path because we know you already practice sound land use. Local, state and federal governments would need to enact tax and permit incentives to tie into the Stewardship Act and SOZ. Landowners not wanting to do an audit would not get the overlay and would instead go through the standard permitting process and receive no tax write offs.

Stewardship landowners would get write offs and streamlined permitting, which would significantly increase the number of landowners practicing sound land use. These landowners would include cannabis farmers and many other agricultural producers. It would provide incentives in areas both rural and urban. In rural areas, it would help reduce erosion and sedimentation, and protect water and wildlife resources. In urban areas, it might include storm water management, where any impervious surface runoff would be captured on site in rain barrels and rain gardens, reducing water withdrawals.

The point is, with effective incentives (carrots) most landowners would comply simply because it makes financial sense. We would be dealing with multiple types of land use in both rural and urban areas. We would be supporting prevention of damaging land use, which is much cheaper than repair. Remember the Humpty Dumpty story ... cheaper to keep him on the wall, or an once of prevention is worth a pound of repair.

Perhaps most importantly, we would set up a financial reward system that benefits good land stewardship. A well integrated local, state and federal incentive program for protecting the land, the water and the wildlife would dramatically expand the available resources for watershed and fisheries restoration. Current grant programs cannot deal with all the damaged watersheds. Only effective prevention of more damage and repair of existing damage can repair the health and wealth of our natural resource base.

Cleaning Up Clam Beach


How to organize the community and get more funding to clean up a popular but polluted beach

Clam Beach made the state’s dirtiest beaches report again and has been getting worse each year, according to a report by Heal the Bay. This year it is at the top of the list for polluted beaches. Luffenholtz and several other local beaches also made the list. The culprit is fecal coliform from animals and failing septic systems. So what do we do about this?

Back in 2006 the local communities surrounding Trinidad Bay began considering actions they might take to protect the water quality and aquatic productivity of the bay. At this time the City of Trinidad, the Rancheria Casino and the Humboldt State Marine Lab all received notices of water quality violations from polluted runoff entering the bay.

At this point the community had a couple choices. We could bury our heads in the sand and pay lawyers to fight the state or we could identify our problems, our solutions, and gather the resources to fix the problems. LA and other coastal communities chose the stall and fight path. The Trinidad area community chose to identify and solve our problems.

When we were at this important crossroad, the decision on what to do was not easy. Fortunately as the Director of Natural Resources Services (NRS) at Redwood Community Action Agency (RCAA) I had gained extensive experience with starting watershed councils and identifying and solving watershed problems.

For 10 years the Ford Foundation paid my wages and expenses to travel all over the United States helping communities develop watershed councils and solve problems. This process brings together stakeholders from throughout the watershed to identify and work on common problems. We recognize and respect our differences and agree to work on common goals.

I remember the first meeting to establish the Trinidad Bay Watershed Council (TBWC),when many community members attended.

Several residents from the McKinleyville area in particular said that they thought this was just another government program to dictate what folks can and cannot do. I understand those fears, but in this case it was not true.

The watershed council has no authority to dictate anything. Its greatest asset is in bringing together folks of varying interests (stakeholders) to work on solving common community problems.

That is exactly what we have done with the TBWC. In the past 10 years our community has secured over $10 million dollars in grant funds to solve our problems and clean up Trinidad Bay.

Having a stakeholder group and a watershed action plan moved our proposals to the top of the funding list, out-competing Los Angeles and many other coastal communities. These funds have helped lower-income property owners fix faulty septic systems, helped the city reduce storm water pollution from city streets, replaced the creosote piling pier, and helped reduce sediment input from dirt roads entering local water supplies and the bay.

By coming together as a community we have identified our problems and raised funds from our tax dollars to create local jobs and solve our problems. This process has also helped our residents come together with a common vision of protecting our watersheds and the bay.

Recent water quality monitoring efforts have shown that treatment of the roads has reduced turbidity and improved water quality in Luffenholtz Creek. Luffenholtz Beach has moved lower on the most-polluted beach list, although it’s still higher than anyone would like.

While there are many more septic systems to repair, progress is being made.I would recommend that a similar process be organized for the Strawberry/Patricks Creek watershed area to clean up Clam Beach and solve watershed problems. The county is working to locate the sources of pollution, but then what?

The reason for the problems is often a lack of resources for families to fix failing septic systems. We cannot regulate and enforce our way to a better future.

We can identify our problems, develop action plans to fix the problems and then raise the resources to solve our problems. The resources are there for communities that work together as stakeholders.

Cleaning up Clam Beach will help ensure that children playing in the creek as it flows to the ocean do not get sick.

Cleaning up the creeks flowing out into the ocean will help protect the clamming beds that gave Clam Beach its name and protect the fish and other aquatic species that live in the creek.

The cleanup efforts will employ local contractors and workers at living wage jobs, and cleaner creeks and beaches will help us grow our tourism economies while providing safe recreational opportunities for local residents.

It is a win-win for the economy and the environment and for local residents. We can do amazing things when we come together to solve our problems.


Nobody's Happy with the General Plan Update


Because of a flawed General Plan Update process, both developers and the public are the losers.  Here are some ideas to make things better.

I work with developers all over Humboldt County and they constantly tell me two things. One, while they do not necessarily agree with all the laws and regulations, the worst thing for them is unpredictability. If they know what laws and requirements they have to adhere to then they do the math on that and see if their development ideas pencil out as profitable. If they think their development will make profit then they proceed only to be delayed or stalled for years by appeals and lawsuits. This is all a big waste of money and time for developers.

The second thing they tell me is that if the laws are clear and they do not change them midway into their development (safe harbor) then they can make an informed decision on whether to proceed or not.

There are those that say that increased development is good for the community and creates an increase in property tax revenues for the county as well as more jobs. The jobs come faster when the development can proceed in an orderly and timely fashion. Appeals and lawsuits delay the job creation whereas clear and consistent planning law will lead to more jobs sooner.

As regards increased tax revenues, this is more complicated. Usually when this argument is put forth it is only a one-sided analysis. Only the benefit is discussed. A true cost-benefit analysis would look at increased revenue as well as increased expenses.

When piecemeal development occurs without consideration for the larger impacts of the development, then there are unmitigated costs that are placed on the neighborhood, the community, and on public services. If we increase property tax revenues but also increase the costs for police, roads, schools and more, then we end up with less resources for roads, police and schools.

A sound development that follows CEQA would increase property taxes and deal with additional issues of public service costs. A piecemeal development that does not follow CEQA often leads to lawsuits that the county must then defend.

In the past 10 years the county has found itself embroiled in numerous lawsuits regarding inadequate, approved development. The Moss subdivision in Northern Humboldt and the Tooby Ranch in Southern Humboldt are just two examples of this. The county has wasted millions of dollars defending these bad decisions by the planning commission and Board of Supervisors.

That is how the community and taxpayers lose. Our limited tax dollars are being spent on defending poorly planned and unmitigated development.

These inadequate developments when approved create more impacts in adjacent neighborhoods leaving us all a little poorer. When tax dollars are limited, then fewer roadwork gets done, there are fewer police services, and we cannot give raises to home health care workers and more. And yet there are enough funds for the Board of Supervisors to give themselves a raise.

Having a sound General Plan that meets the requirements of state planning law would lead to increased development and jobs, while protecting neighborhoods and communities and the environment.

What are the solutions to this? Here are a few ideas.

There has been a massive focus on the General Plan Update and yet it is only a set of guidelines that can be followed or not. The real teeth-in-law comes with the zoning ordinances that will accompany the General Plan changes.

Zoning ordinance must be followed. They are not just guidelines. So over the next few years the county will be crafting these zoning changes. It would be good to have elected officials that understand planning law and basic economics. Understanding the difference between carrots and sticks, incentives and disincentives would be a good start.

Rather than dismantling government so that certain special interests can make even more money at the expense of community values and safety, we should be trying to make government more responsive to community concerns and visions.

We should incentivize good land stewardship and business practices and reward those values that mean the most to the community.

An engaged and educated citizenry can create a future that rewards us all.

Videos (1)

Accountability TV: Steve Madrone — May 23, 2018 North Coast People's Alliance

Panel discussion about the future of Humboldt County and candidate Steve Madrone's forty years of experience bringing grant money and jobs into the community. Panelists:  Fifth District Candidate Steve Madrone; Carrie Peyton-Dahlberg of the North Coast People's Alliance; Don Allan, retired Natural Resources Director of the Redwood Community Action Agency.

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