My Priorities as 2nd District Supervisor
I’m seeking re-election because I want to:
- Continue to protect our coastal lands, our agricultural resources, scenic open spaces and other natural resources.
- Continue to fight for clean air, clean water, clean marine resources and unfettered public access to our county’s coastline and other precious public spaces.
- Continue the Board’s sound financial management, while maintaining essential county services.
- Continue the Board’s focus on building the economy and creating jobs, and preparing for any economic downturn we might face. It happens so we must be ready.
- Continue to serve county residents in an open and responsive manner.
- Continue to push the current Board to engage in thoughtful, careful, deliberate progress toward practical solutions to the county’s challenges.
- Continue to push the current Board to conduct rational decision making, sound financial management and steady delivery of public safety and health care services.
Sound Fiscal Management
My focus on long-term financial planning and economic policy issues are a regular part of the Board’s policy agenda.
The county budget is stable. The pension outlook is good. Our bond rating is the best ever. This didn’t happen by accident.
Even before the economic crisis struck in 2009 (and lasted for several years), I led the Board in approving a financial management plan to navigate our county through the historic economic contractions.
We instituted a hiring freeze and negotiated with our employees, which allowed us to reduce the size of county government without requiring any direct layoffs. We also reduced the long-term cost of government through shared contributions to employee pensions and a 2nd-tier pension plan for new hires.
Our county employees are committed to the public services they provide and unselfishly stepped up to share the burden during these difficult economic times. I salute them for their willingness to share the pain and be part of the solution.
The most important part of government, especially local government, is the protection of our families, neighborhoods, and communities. Public safety – law enforcement, fire protection and public health – are my highest priorities. We absolutely must honor that obligation, even in the face of shrinking resources.
I will continue to fight for adequate, logical funding for the District Attorney’s Office, the Probation Department, sheriff’s and fire protection for our communities while implementing budgetary efficiencies wherever they can be found.
Importantly, we’re becoming increasingly aware of the connections between mental health and law enforcement. In this era in which our County Jail has become a de facto state prison, due to changes in the state’s criminal justice system, our jail has become increasingly inhabited with people who suffer from mental health problems. This places a strain on inmates, jail workers and the county’s budget.
Our county has focused more effort on mental health, addiction treatment and jobs skills training – and we look forward to seeing offenders leave jail and not return.
As a member of the Board of Supervisors, I take my role seriously in overseeing the effectiveness of jail operations and county mental health services. This will be a high priority for me moving forward.
I will always strive to strengthen the partnerships and find the money necessary to support appropriate levels of service at our health clinics and for other health services that care for the most vulnerable members of our community.
These health services are fundamental to our community. We cannot and will not balance the books of county government on the backs of the weakest among us. We are better than that. We can find a way forward.
Water Resource Management
One of the county’s most critical concerns has been understanding – and finding ways to address – our many complex water resource issues. Water is what allows us to grow our food, work our farms and build our communities and local economy.
In the North County, an entire wine industry and rural way of life depends on finding rational solutions to seemingly intractable water problems. On the Nipomo Mesa, wells are running dry. As our lingering drought continues, water takes up more of our daily thoughts.
To better understand our water resource needs and supply, the Board has adopted an updated County Master Water Plan. The plan will identify our water resources and project our needs into the future.
We are developing Groundwater Sustainability Plans for each of the six water basins identified as high or medium priority under the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Implementing these plans will require close coordination with our cities and special districts – with the important result of sustainable groundwater supplies for our communities and our economic future.
Much remains to be done.
Closure of Diablo Canyon
The pending closure of the Diablo Canyon poses significant challenges to our county, as more than 1,200 high-paying jobs will be lost as the plant is shuttered in 2024-2025. The loss to our local economy and the loss of tax revenue to our schools and county will be significant.
I’m working closely with state Sen. Bill Monning and Assembyman Jordan Cunningham as Sen. Monning advances a bill to provide $85 million in support to our county through this difficult transition. From this bi-partisan effort, we hope to receive $75 million to keep essential school and county services running as tax revenue diminishes and $10 million to invest in new economic development.
We approach this challenge in a strong position to keep our economy strong, as during my tenure the county has commissioned an Economic Strategy that will encourage growth in already-strong sectors such as tourism, health care, specialized manufacturing and information technology. I see other opportunities to grow jobs in a clean energy future through programs such as Community Choice Aggregation and energy efficiency retrofits.
The View Forward
Even with these many accomplishments, as I look ahead, there’s much still to be done:
- We must keep the Board’s focus on rational, fact- and science-based decision making, especially as our county navigates potentially troubled economic waters in the next few years.
- The Board of Supervisors must continue to:
- Nurture a local economy where more jobs are created, our environment is protected and public services are maintained. We have a good start with our county’s Economic Strategy, developed by our private sector with our collaboration.
- Move forward to implement smart growth strategies that support next-generation housing. At the same time, we can protect precious natural resources that support our treasured coastal areas, agricultural lands, scenic open spaces and our quality of life.
- Move quickly to increase renewable energy sources and improve energy efficiency through green building and public transit.
- Ensure that San Luis Obispo County can and will lead the region, the state, and the country in the area of green energy and technology job creation. Unfortunately, the majority of our Board of Supervisors rejected a proposal for a county-run community choice energy program, which I believe was a good idea. I’ll work to bring that back to the board and do my best to persuade the board majority to do the right thing and approve this innovative project.
- Adapt county government to new and difficult budget realities. We must carefully and efficiently apply scarce funds to critical infrastructure projects, as well as continue to provide crucial county services. I will continue to work with county supervisors from around the state to advocate the reform of state government and to bring resources and authority home to the local level.
- In doing all this, I will continue the fight to protect our incomparable natural areas and critical coastal resources.