Q&A with 5th District Supervisorial candidate Debbie Arnold
Editor’s note: San Luis Obispo County will be electing a 5th District Supervisor on March 3, 2020. The county clerk-recorder has sent mail-in ballots to voters and it is time to decide. In this election, voters will choose between incumbent Debbie Arnold and former Atascadero Mayor Ellen Beraud. We asked both candidates the same questions and are publishing both of their responses today. We asked the candidates to keep their answers to under 200 words.
Questions and answers with Debbie Arnold
What will you accomplish for the community in your first year in office?
I have been serving the community for more than seven years as the 5th District Supervisor. My accomplishments include supporting the expansion of the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport, and I plan to continue this effort. With the closure of Diablo Canyon looming, this project is designed to expand tourism, as well as attract new business to the County. I will also continue to expand on our plan of fair distribution of water and protection of our groundwater here in the County. I will continue to work on services for the homeless, beyond our recent accomplishment of building the homeless services center at 40 Prado. I will continue to fully fund law enforcement’s efforts to keep our communities safe, and will keep working with the County Fire Safe Council to address the prevention of wildland fire. I will continue to improve our road conditions by prioritizing the funding necessary to maintain roads and bridges at a safe standard. I will support plans to expand our parks and trail systems, and work with our building industry to offer more affordable housing in the County.
The cost of housing is rising and the availability of affordable housing is shrinking. What solutions can you bring to solve the problem?
Solutions to affordable and workforce housing are already being addressed. The County recently expanded the opportunity for secondary or accessory units to be built on lots with an existing primary home. This will immediately provide opportunities for rental units or units to accommodate family members while taking advantage of existing infrastructure. We have also directed staff to make available stock plans to cut down on the cost and amount of time it takes to get a project through the permitting stage. I will continue to work with the building industry to make homes more affordable through zoning and design-build options.
What is your opinion on the growing cannabis industry in the county?
I will continue to work with the cannabis industry and the citizens to identify appropriate locations for cannabis projects. Just like other projects, we need to address this industry with zoning and setbacks to reduce the conflict we have seen with existing farming operations and residences. By allowing cannabis operations in areas where they are compatible with existing land uses we can help this industry achieve success here in the county.
What are your solutions for dealing with the over-draft of the Paso Robles groundwater basin and maintaining North County’s thriving wine industry?
During the last drought cycle, we saw a large expansion of irrigated vineyards by large corporations that created a situation in the Paso Robles Basin of severe decline of the groundwater. After years of planning, and lots of public input, a Groundwater Sustainability Plan was turned in on time to the Department of Water Resources. The plan calls for a reduction of pumping by the large corporate vineyards. I believe sufficient pumping reductions can be achieved with better management and conservation efforts while winery production remains stable. We need to focus on a more fair distribution of the water while protecting our groundwater basin.
What are your solutions for addressing the homeless issue in the county?
I was chairman of the Homeless Services Oversight Council for the first five years I was a Supervisor. In that time we initiated the “50 now” program that was very successful at identifying the most chronically homeless and getting them the services they needed. We worked with the local hospitals to put mental health care professionals in the emergency rooms, and we found a location and supported building the homeless service center and shelter at 40 Prado. This center provides 100 beds along with medical services, counseling, and drug and alcohol services. I have supported the expansion of shelters countywide, including ECHO in Atascadero. We have budgeted millions of dollars for both drug and alcohol services, and mental health services for the homeless, and I continue to work with the County Health Department and law enforcement to bring solutions to this growing issue.
What are other issues do you think are the most important to address in the county?
Another important issue here in our County is the threat of wildfires. We have seen other counties in the state devastated by fire, and prevention work has become a focus of mine. As Chair of the County’s Fire Safe Council, I am happy to report that millions of dollars in grant funds are being put to good use here in the County to minimize fire risk. Many fire professionals, including retired Cal Fire Chief Dan Turner, have helped identify projects and oversee the incredible work along our roadsides to reduce fuel loads to manageable levels.
Please tell our readers about your experience and background and how it will benefit district residents.
I believe both my personal life’s experience and my professional experience have given me the opportunity to better serve the citizens of this county. After moving to the County in 1973 to attend Cal Poly, I married my husband Steve, and became a member of a generational ranching family. We continue to farm and ranch to this day, and this experience has helped me better represent the agricultural industry here in the County. In 1982 I purchased a pre-‐school in Atascadero where I served the needs of north county families for over 17 years. In 2000, I was given an opportunity to serve constituents in a different way, as a legislative assistant to County Supervisors Mike Ryan. Later I worked as a field representative for California State Assemblyman and later Senator Sam Blakeslee providing constituent service and working on legislation affecting the district. This experience has given me the tools to be a strong advocate for my constituents. It has been an honor to represent the people of this County.
–Learn more about Debbie Arnold on her website