County supervisors face prospect of stalemate without fifth member

clambert@thetribunenews.comJune 28, 2013 

The County Government Center in San Luis Obispo.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

As San Luis Obispo County officials mourn the loss of Supervisor Paul Teixeira, who died late Wednesday, they’re also reviewing what issues could come before the Board of Supervisors in the next few months.

County officials don’t have plans to change upcoming agendas, nor do they foresee any controversial items coming before the board in July or August — though sometimes seemingly innocuous items take a life of their own, County Counsel Rita Neal and Assistant County Counsel Tim McNulty said in a joint interview Friday.

But now, with only four members on the board until Teixeira’s successor is appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the likelihood of a stalemate could increase — evoking déjà vu for San Luis Obispo residents who saw their City Council struggle recently with its own 2-2 split.

Also, three votes are needed for the board to take any action, and in some cases, a four-fifths vote is required. As a result, the board could have a tough time passing even routine items, if individual supervisors can’t reach a consensus.

“Some items that are somewhat routine could result in no action,” Neal said.

The county’s fall-back plan in certain situations might be to continue items until a fifth supervisor is named, McNulty added.

Looking further ahead, whoever is appointed to fill Teixeira’s seat will have an impact on important and consequential issues such as managing the Paso Robles groundwater basin, growth and other land-use issues.

The appointment could once again shift the balance on the Board of Supervisors, which with the addition of Debbie Arnold in January thrust the board away from the environmentalist majority that had held sway on land-use issues for four years.

It’s no surprise, then, that interest groups will be keeping a close watch over the appointment process, which could take a few months.

Supervisor Adam Hill said Friday he hopes Teixeira’s untimely passing could prompt all board members to try harder to work together on sensitive issues.

“The sudden loss has been really sad and sobering in a way that there’s always a chance that it will help us bring a little more unity and perspective to the board,” he said.

Hill views water — specifically the management of the dwindling Paso Robles groundwater basin — as the most important issue facing the board.

The board adopted a series of recommendations in May to begin forming a water district. The next step is for staff to give supervisors an update on the status of forming the district, possibly in late August or September.

Over the next two months, the board will hear some reports that don’t require votes, such as a new plan containing ideas to revitalize Oceano, and an update on the La Grande Tract, a 584-acre chunk of county-owned land in the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area.

But through July and August, it appears there aren’t any large land-use issues coming to the board, which have historically lent themselves to split votes, Neal said.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.

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