Earth Mover

Supervisor candidate Jim Potts wants to shake up county, dig tunnel under mountain

This Tuesday, residents of Brea, Irvine, Orange, Tustin, Villa Park and Yorba Linda will vote for their new Third District Supervisor. The seat was vacated a couple of months ago when Todd Spitzer got elected to the state's 71st Assembly District. But before the county Registrar of Voters' office even set a date for a special election—mandated by the new Measure V, which passed in November and replaced the old system of allowing the governor to fill county supervisorial vacancies with direct elections—all the endorsements and big money started flowing to right-winger Bill Campbell, who was termed-out of the Assembly seat Spitzer's ass now fills.

I recently sat down to talk to current Irvine cop/former Tustin city councilman Jim Potts, one of Campbell's challengers, about why he'd get into a race most consider already over.

OC Weekly: So why run at all? Jim Potts: I guess I'm just dumb and don't know any better. But when I saw Campbell's "Neighborhood News" flier, which came out a few days before his campaign office even opened and showed how everyone and his brother had already endorsed him, I knew somebody had to step up. Clearly, the club had already picked its new member. They've basically scared everyone off. Even my wife, who never really supported me during the times I got elected to the Tustin City Council, said I should run. Why should people vote for you?

I've been elected three times to the Tustin City Council. In fact, I'm the only candidate running who has sat on a city council. But I also understand management, since I've owned a wholesale importing company for 27 years. And I'm used to running my own investigations. I've been on the Irvine Police Department for 25 years. I'm a public-safety supervisor, but that's just Irvine PD talk for sergeant. I run the Specialized Investigations Bureau. I could find more crime on the county Board of Supervisors than in the entire city of Irvine.

What do you feel was your best accomplishment on the Tustin City Council?

Bringing some degree of openness and reform to the city. I tried to shine a light on what really happens in the city. Once I looked at city payouts and found a $2,000 cell phone bill—it turned out it was some guy calling his girlfriend repeatedly because she didn't want to talk to him anymore. But the biggest example of that was probably my fighting our old evergreen trash contract. People said for years that you couldn't put the contract out to bid. But we did, finally. Residents are much happier today with trash pick-up, and the city recycles more.

What do you think is the greatest problem facing the county?

A complete lack of forward thinking. Traffic to and from the Inland Empire is an increasing problem, and I believe the best solution is for a tri-level tunnel out to Lake Mathews. Water would run through the lowest level, which would also run turbines generating electricity powering the tunnel. Cars and trucks carried on conveyor belts would move through the second tunnel, and there would be a mag-lev train on the top level. You could even sell the dirt you took out of the tunnel to Long Beach, which wants fill for its harbor-expansion plans. You could build a hub at El Toro, making the Great Park the center of Southern California. The whole thing would cost about $3 billion. It's doable, but the county is ignoring it.

Any other problems?

Mismanagement. The Planning Department can't account for $18 million, but what does the Board of Supervisors do? They give the department head a golden handshake and let him retire. I would have called for a grand jury investigation. It's not right that if you rob a liquor store for $20 and get caught, you'll get five years in prison, but if you lose millions, nothing happens. But then again, lots of things aren't right in the county. By law, the county needs to have a detox center. It doesn't. The county only has eight beds for mentally ill people who are brought in by the police for emergency evaluation. The law says the county has to have a safety net, but it isn't there.

 
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