Q&A with 5th District Supervisorial candidate Ellen Beraud
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 Ellen Beraud
What will you accomplish for the community in your first year in office?
- Agendize Community Choice Energy, reconsider the need for additional studies. Ask county staff to recommend next steps to pursue on the Climate Action Plan.
- Agendize revisiting the suggestions from the Coalition of Housing partners to form a solid plan for generating $2-4 million per year to leverage for future housing projects to create workforce housing. Consider holding a regional strategic planning session to discuss prime locations for housing, potential funding, and how to streamline the process to get units built.
- Meet with planning staff to prioritize the final permitting steps of those cannabis operations with original permits.
- Task the Homeless Services Oversight Council with creating a plan for future grants from the State and report back to the board for next steps on on-going budgetary needs. Consider holding a strategic planning workshop to consider options on how to move forward on all fronts.
- Agendize plan for funding the Paso Robles Water Basin management with current water users vs. general fund subsidy. Consider holding public meetings in North County to encourage greater public participation. This is critical for building public trust and creating a solid plan with specific steps.
The cost of housing is rising and the availability of affordable housing is shrinking. What solutions can you bring to solve the problem?
Every person in this county is directly or indirectly impacted by our housing affordability crisis. Employers struggle to hire qualified employees, our roads remain constantly congested, families struggle to pay the bills, and more people are living on the streets. Under the current Board of Supervisors’ failed leadership, local rents continue to rise faster than any other county in California. Between 2014 and 2018, 84% of the housing produced in our county was for above-moderate income households and the county failed to even come close to meeting its goals for moderate and low-income housing production. The community, economy, and environment deserve more.
Here’s my plan to address our housing affordability crisis:
- Prioritizing higher density residential housing near our county’s major job centers
- Investing in infrastructure to reduce the inordinate cost to build housing
- Creating incentives for homebuilders to go above and beyond affordable housing requirements to provide more deed-restricted low-income units
- Front-loading environmental project review to protect our natural resources while making it easier for homebuilders to deliver desperately needed workforce housing
- Increasing funding for homelessness programs to help our community’s struggling residents while also saving long-term costs for taxpayers and businesses.
What is your opinion on the growing cannabis industry in the county?
The people have spoken, and have voted to legalize cannabis and tax it’s cultivation and sale throughout the cities of our county. The voters of SLO County entrusted our county leadership with developing sensible and safe policies around this emerging industry – yet the county’s ordinance isn’t sensible or safe. Under the incumbent’s leadership, our county’s poorly developed cannabis ordinance and permitting process is resulting in loss of tax revenue and free enterprise, and is even contributing to an increase in black market activity. This is not how business should be conducted in our county. We need smart legislation that balances the interests and property rights of both neighbors and business owners.
With the looming closure of Diablo Canyon, our county should be smartly pursuing economic opportunities like cannabis and hemp as important parts of a vibrant and diverse local economy. There’s millions of dollars of potential economic activity and tax revenue that we’re missing out on – revenue that could go towards roads, housing, and improved homelessness services. Not only is the current cannabis ordinance hindering our county’s revenue streams, it’s stifling local businesses while also negatively impacting neighboring residents. We need a stronger ordinance that works for everyone.
What are your solutions for dealing with the over-draft of the Paso Robles groundwater basin and maintaining North County’s thriving wine industry?
Agriculture and related tourism is a $2.54 billion industry in our county, supporting more than 14,000 jobs. In North County, agriculture and the wine industry are the primary economic drivers. To protect our economy, we must support our existing businesses that depend on the Paso Robles groundwater basin, which includes irrigated agriculture. As a region, our highest priorities should be to do everything that we can to bring the water basin into sustainability. Anything less will result in a significant blow to our local economy.
To bring the basin into sustainability, we need a robust plan with firm benchmarks and a comprehensive set of solutions, and it needs to be developed in cooperation with the local ag and farming community, who oppose the current sustainability plan. Instead of relying exclusively on draconian cutbacks that will ultimately result in reduced economic activity and job loss, our county should explore a suite of solutions such as requiring best management practices for water use, metering large water users, and investing in water infrastructure projects that utilize recycled water that will preserve our existing agriculture. Unfortunately, current leadership has failed to develop a plan that will actually achieve this.
What are your solutions for addressing the homeless issue in the county?
Homelessness across our state is reaching crisis levels, and our county is not immune to the increase. Indeed, homelessness countywide has risen 32% since 2017, and the rate of homeless veterans has jumped by a stagering 78% to its highest levels since the incumbent took office. This is a complex problem (after all, no two cases of homeleness are identical), and cities and counties across the state are struggling to implement solutions. However there are solutions that are working right here in our county, but they lack enough funding from our county budget to meet the reality of the crisis.
Under the incumbent’s direction, our county has moved money away from services to address our homelessness crisis and deprioritized it as an issue. If I am elected, that will not be the case. I will not only ensure our local programs that are actively sheltering our most chronically homeless (and preventing others from becoming homeless in the first place!) are adequately funded, I will push our county to apply for grant funding from the state that has recently been made available. We need stronger leadership on this issue than we’ve currently got.
What are other issues do you think are the most important to address in the county?
Diablo Canyon’s decommissioning will be a long-term project that will require close attention from the BOS. There are opportunities to repurpose many of the buildings and infrastructure onsite, preserve open spaces for public use, and employ our local workforce through community workforce agreements. This will take leadership to coordinate and cultivate community alliances with the nonprofits, labor unions and city governments for a successful transition. This process will also provide funding for needed infrastructure to build workforce housing to support our working families with reasonable housing options. A stable workforce will allow existing business/industry to expand and invite new opportunities into SLO county to replace the jobs we are losing.
I am encouraged to hear that the federal government and the Navy are making progress on opening up our coastline to offshore windfarm development. As we move through the decommissioning process, our county should constantly be taking into account the future use of the Diablo Canyon site, especially considering new renewable energy generation that would bolster our local economy while providing clean energy.
Please tell our readers about your experience and background and how it will benefit district residents.
I’m a 20 year resident of Atascadero, having moved here to raise my two children. Together with my husband, I own and operate a small electrical contracting business. I’m also a registered dietitian, and I currently work at the Atascadero State Hospital. I’ve also served as an Atascadero Planning Commissioner, City Council Member, and Mayor.
I love this community. I moved here because I believe this is truly one of the most special places to call home. Yes, our hills and open spaces are beautiful, but it’s the people of our community that make our county great. I’m running for supervisor because I’m concerned about our county’s future. We’re facing some of our biggest challenges ever – threats to our economy, our environment, and our way of life. Over and over again, I hear that people’s voices aren’t heard, and that their concerns are being ignored. We need smart, honest leadership to guide our county into the future. If elected as your next supervisor, I pledge to serve the people of our county, and ensure the hardworking families have an ally on the Board of Supervisor.
–Learn more about Ellen Beraud on her website
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