My Priorities as 2nd District Supervisor
When asked why I am seeking re-election, my response is straightforward. I want to:
- Complete the long-awaited Los Osos wastewater treatment project. Construction began under my watch and I aim to see it through to the end.
- 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, in the face of difficult economic conditions here and everywhere.
- Continue to serve county residents in an open and responsive manner.
- Continue the Board’s thoughtful, careful, deliberate progress toward practical solutions to the county’s challenges.
- Continue the Board of Supervisors’ rational decision making, financial management, and the delivery of public safety and health care services.
Sound Fiscal Management
My focus on long-term financial planning and economic policy issues and have become a regular part of the Board’s policy agenda.
The first critical issue has been the county government’s fiscal health. Even before the economic crisis struck, our Board had approved a financial management plan to lead our county through the forthcoming 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 have 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.
The last two years have seen a dramatic change in our state’s criminal justice system. Counties now have responsibility for many more low-level offenders. With this responsibility comes a great opportunity to shift focus to programs that will actually reduce repeat offenses.
Our county has embraced this new approach – which focuses more effort on mental health and addiction treatment and jobs skills training – and we look forward to seeing offenders leave jail and not return. The success of this public safety “realignment” depends on a team effort by several county departments – the Sheriff’s Department, Probation Department, the DA’s office, Behavioral Health Services and others.
We have made huge progress in putting an effective team together. My job is to watch their progress and be sure they have the resources to succeed.
I will always strive to strengthen the partnerships and find the money necessary to support appropriate levels of service at our primary health clinics and for other health services that care for the most vulnerable members of our community.
The coming national health care reform will provide the county new resources to deliver medical care and mental health services for our low-income residents. This means everyone benefits by reducing emergency room costs, lowering out health insurance premiums and improving the overall health 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.
During my recent term, we found a temporary solution to what seemed to be an impossible political problem for the North County: giving all water users a sense of hope that there is a way forward. As well, we celebrated the completion of the Nacimiento Water Pipeline Project, which will bring additional water supplies to the communities of Paso Robles, Templeton, Atascadero, San Luis Obispo and Cayucos.
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. Much remains to be done. …
Seismic Safety at Diablo Canyon
There are some aspects of “public safety” that are unique to San Luis Obispo County. As a result of the nuclear calamity in Japan in March 2011, my colleagues and I have urged a complete re-examination of every assumption about the safety of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. The Board thoroughly reviewed the plant’s emergency response and evacuation plan in the event of an accident or unforeseen natural disaster.
We demanded that PG&E slow down its effort to extend the operating license of Diablo beyond 2024-25 until a comprehensive analysis of Diablo’s seismic safety is completed. Our Board agreed, but not without some controversy. Now, that study is happening, thanks to our Board and a non-partisan effort by state and federal elected officials.
Finally, I was appointed as the county’s representative on the Diablo Canyon Independent Peer Review Panel, to help assure that the sentiments of this county’s residents are considered when decisions affecting us are made.
I hope you agree that – in terms of political leadership – nothing matters more to the residents of San Luis Obispo County than our health and safety.
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 troubled economic waters.
- The Board of Supervisors must continue to:
- Nurture an economic environment in which 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 to protect precious natural resources that support our treasured coastal areas, agricultural lands, scenic open spaces and our quality of life. I will continue the fight to protect our incomparable natural areas and critical coastal resources.
- 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.
- 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.