Butte Co. candidates forum displays differences


CHICO, Calif. - Differences of opinion and policy approaches were front and center at a Butte County candidates forum Wednesday night.

The race that has arguably been getting the most attention is over the District 2 Supervisor position.

Incumbent Larry Wahl is facing opposition from Chicoan Andrew Merkel.

Wahl and Merkel approve of near opposite medical marijuana referendums that will be voted on in November. Wahl is calling for a strict ordinance while Merkel wants more lax rules that he says will bring business and tax dollars to Butte County.

That issue aside, the two also spoke out about ways to draw a potential Sriracha hot sauce plant to Oroville and protect area water rights, among other things.

But when it came to law enforcement policies, the two have clearly different approaches.

Merkel wants money typically given to sheriff's and corrections to be shifted to public health and mental health programs.

"Most of the crimes committed are by people on methamphetamines. They're out there searching, trying to get money for drugs," Merkel said. "We offset some of the money that we're giving for corrections and we take that and put it into public health and see if we can solve the problem without repetitively locking them up."

Wahl, on the other hand, said the money Merkel wants to divert doesn't come from local sources and must go towards law enforcement.

"Behavioral health and mental health and those things, they are funded by state and federal programs," Wahl said. "What we spend our general fund on primarily is sheriff, fire, roads, that sort of thing. Those are the big things that we need to spend our money on."

This was the third candidates forum put on the Butte County League of Women Voters in the last month.

The primary election is a little less than three weeks away, and will be held on June 3.