Election 2014

4 questions for Mike Byrd, Lynn Compton and Caren Ray, 4th District supervisor candidates

newsroom@thetribunenews.comApril 23, 2014 

Correction: An earlier version of this story contained an inaccuracy about candidate Michael Byrd’s work experience. For eight years, Byrd worked as an assistant to a county supervisor in Kern County. He was not the supervisor.

San Luis Obispo County 4th District supervisor

The Tribune asked Mike Byrd, Lynn Compton and Caren Ray, candidates in the 4th District SLO County supervisor race, to answer each of these four questions in 200 words or less.

Term: 4 years • Salary: $82,014

MIKE BYRD

Mike Byrd, 62, is a real estate broker and previously served as an assistant to a county supervisor in Kern County. Byrd, a Democrat, holds an associate degree from Bakersfield College. He lives in Arroyo Grande with his wife, Eve, and has one adult son.

1. What will be your top goal for the first six months of your term?

Since the Phillips 66 rail spur project has been pushed back until after the election, that will be coming up pretty quickly. Though I understand that new sources of oil must be brought out of the oilfields via surface transportation, I would prefer that it be transferred to pipeline as soon as possible and delivered to the refinery that way. This is some pretty volatile stuff and train accidents in our county are not unknown. In the bigger picture, I very much want to improve the way in which the board of supervisors works together. Having worked eight years for a board of supervisors I know that it is possible for supervisors of differing perspectives to cooperate in a respectful, productive manner.

2. If more money becomes available as the county budget crisis eases, how would you like to see it spent?

Mental health needs in this county are huge and largely unaddressed. I applaud the sheriff’s recognition of this problem and would support his initiatives as well as others that would make the greatest impact. Seventy percent of the voters in the South County are over 55 years of age. And many seniors confronting the challenges of aging don’t have families locally to help them through it. Affordable housing, nutrition, health care, transportation — the list goes on and on. County government can’t do everything, but it can serve to initiate and foster assistance. One suggestion I’m making might be called a Neighborhood Senior Watch, organized much like the Neighborhood Watch programs. Let’s return to the time of neighbors helping neighbors rather than relying on government for everything.

3. The county is dealing with extreme drought and dwindling aquifer levels. What additional steps would you take to deal with the crisis?

As was once said, whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting. Severe drought has visited the Central Coast since time immemorial. Whatever choices we make, it must be understood that water for our homes and farms will continue to become more and more expensive. Just a few of the many things we should be considering include: A countywide coordination in the management of supplies and delivery that would make more efficient use of what we have and spread the cost of additional supplies to make them more affordable. Stop dumping millions of gallons of water into the ocean. Tertiary treatment is an obvious partial solution. A better system of storm runoff management and retention is a vital component to any long-term solution.

4. Unhealthy dust levels are a serious problem in the South County. How would you deal with this problem?

Recent efforts blaming State Parks for the very real and significant dust problem on the West Mesa are shortsighted and misleading. Yes, dust does come off the dunes, both the vehicular and nonvehicular areas. It has been reported that the $1 million being spent by the state is expected to impact Mesa air quality by only 15 percent. Anyone who was here at the time knew what would happen when developers started clear-cutting the eucalyptus groves. The environmental impact report and specific plan for the Mesa development noted in the mid-1990s that the development would exacerbate the dust problem and steps were to be taken to minimize that impact. Some of those steps were seemingly ignored. We need to consider and address ALL sources of dust pollution.

LYNN COMPTON

Lynn Compton, 50, co-owns Valley Farm Supply with her husband of 20 years. A Rep-ublican, she holds a bachelor’s degree in ag business from Purdue University and a law degree from the Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law. Compton, her husband and twin daughters, age 12, live in Nipomo.

1. What will be your top goal for the first six months of your term?

I don’t have just one goal, but several of similar importance. First, I would advocate for policies that grow jobs. One problem is our lack of economic growth (while somewhat improving). We can’t produce the amount of revenues needed to provide the valuable services. Jobs are a priority as is affordable housing. Additionally, I would start with a moratorium on new fees and/or regulations. I would have staff or an independent consultant look at the 2000+ fees, and have them evaluated on a rolling basis. I would advocate for a policy that fees can only be levied to support the services for which they are levied. Fortifying water infrastructure and addressing water supply issues are a top priority (addressed in drought question).

2. If more money becomes available as the county budget crisis eases, how would you like to see it spent?

Let’s face it … government doesn’t always spend our money wisely. When tax revenues increase, politicians often make spending promises that aren’t sustainable just to get elected. While not exciting, I would like this county to address the obligations we already have and pay down the debt. For starters, we should tackle the $176 million in deferred road maintenance. This is a public safety issue! We need to invest and maintain our county roads, which have deteriorated to below county standards. Additionally, we should accelerate paying down the county’s $115 million (plus interest of $124 million equals $239 million) pension obligation bond debt. Failing to address the county’s current obligations kicks the can down the road, sticking taxpayers and our children with a larger bill in the future.

3. The county is dealing with extreme drought and dwindling aquifer levels. What additional steps would you take to deal with the crisis?

We must take a long-term approach to investing in water infrastructure. While water conservation is important, it will not solve this crisis alone. Had we invested in infrastructure when our population grew, we’d be in a much better position today. Now we are playing catchup. I’d look to solutions that produce fresh water (desalination/modular units, etc.) for the entire county. Additionally, I’d advocate for options that allow for recharge (bladder dams, spreading ponds, etc.). As we make these important decisions with regard to water, we must do so while respecting private property rights. Ensuring reliable, clean water is an essential county responsibility, and it is time we get serious about addressing long-term water infrastructure.

4. Unhealthy dust levels are a serious problem in the South County. How would you deal with this problem?

As the mother of a child who suffers from asthma, I’m mindful of pulmonary health issues associated with life-threatening conditions. There are pockets in the South County where air quality is more problematic. Since dust occurs naturally, it is more challenging to mitigate. However, I support efforts to lessen such impacts to the extent that it is reasonably possible. For example, State Parks is already installing a variety of sand interception features, including plants, hay bales and fences. Ultimately, the issue isn’t whether there is dust; it is where that dust comes from, what caused it, and how it can be mitigated.

CAREN RAY

Caren Ray, 45, is 4th District supervisor. A Democrat, she was previously an Arroyo Grande City Council member and planning commissioner. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history from UCLA and a master’s in educational leadership and administration from Cal Poly. Ray lives in Arroyo Grande with her two sons, ages 11 and 13.

1. What will be your top goal for the first six months of your term?

I am writing this on my six-month anniversary in office, so I have already served my first six months. My top goal as supervisor has been to provide strong, bipartisan leadership for District 4. This is defined as and measured by: 1) changing the culture of the board to a more balanced, consensus-based leadership model; 2) providing issues-based, nonpartisan decision making; 3) delivering the highest level of accessibility and service to my constituents. My philosophy of leadership can be described as an upside-down pyramid, with my constituents at the top, and myself at the bottom. Going forward, I will continue to serve in the same manner, applying this approach to all matters that come before the board.

2. If more money becomes available as the county budget crisis eases, how would you like to see it spent?

We are projecting $4 million to $6 million in increased funds for the next fiscal year. My first priority is to return our contingency funds to prerecession levels to be sure we are prepared for the next fiscal crisis. It is not time to spend until we ensure our long-term financial security. My next priority is to invest in finding a long-term solution to our region’s limited water supply. We are currently constrained to groundwater and state water deliveries. Our region requires a broad portfolio of water generation methods, including desalination and recycled water. Next, along with the entire board, I will look at how to commit one-time monies only to one-time costs, and how to apply structural, long-term increases to personnel, programs and ongoing costs.

3. The county is dealing with extreme drought and dwindling aquifer levels. What additional steps would you take to deal with the crisis?

Since I took office, I have worked tirelessly to give staff resources to collect comprehensive aquifer data so decision-makers can make informed land use decisions. I also led the discussion that put the collection of this data into the current fiscal year, rather than several fiscal years away as was proposed. Further, I have continued to ask for a staff hydrologist so we have a water expert in-house instead of continually hiring expensive outside firms to advise us. In District 4 specifically, I have led staff and stakeholders through continuing discussions as to how the purveyors, county and end-users can work together to get past the drought and toward long-term basin sustainability, including desalination and conservation.

4. Unhealthy dust levels are a serious problem in the South County. How would you deal with this problem?

I am proud to be part of the Air Pollution Control District board that recently proposed and agreed to a settlement with State Parks over this issue. All parties have agreed that mitigation is appropriate and will move forward, now with a process that will promote collaboration to this end. Residents of District 4, and specifically the Mesa, have waited a long time for this to happen. Mitigations have begun to reduce PM10 and should intensify with California Coastal Commission cooperation. Our goal is to reduce particulate matter to where it meets air quality standards that will not adversely affect public health while continuing to permit OHV activity.

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