Editorial

Experience, expertise make Gibson right pick

Incumbent has clear grasp of groundwater, nuclear power

letters@thetribunenews.comApril 28, 2014 

Bruce Gibson

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

  • Primary election: County Supervisor, District 2

    Term: Four years

    Candidates:
    Muril Clift, director of the Cambria Community Services District; retired insurance agent
    Bruce Gibson, incumbent

    The Tribune endorses: Bruce Gibson

Of the two men running for 2nd District supervisor, incumbent Bruce Gibson easily qualifies as the more experienced. He also has a much broader breadth of knowledge on issues of local and regional concern.

One example: Gibson’s education and expertise in the technical area of geophysics alone greatly benefits the county. Gibson has been able to represent the citizens of SLO on issues of seismic safety, particularly as they relate to the Diablo Canyon Power Plant. (More on that later.)

We’ve also been impressed by Gibson’s ability to focus on the long-term future. He was one of the first to sound the alarm on the Paso Robles groundwater basin, for example, and he’s been instrumental in ensuring the community of Los Osos moves forward with the sewer project that’s so critical to the community’s future.

He’s been a highly effective advocate for his constituents in a number of other areas:

• He was vocal in his insistence that Caltrans fix the mess it created on Highway 1 with its poorly executed chip sealing project.

• He pushed to repair the Cayucos Pier as quickly as possible.

• He was a key player in the successful campaign to open a new Cambria Library, not only by keeping the issue on the public radar but also by assisting with grants and other fundraising efforts.

We also like his ability to compromise. On the issue of water conservation offsets for the Paso Robles groundwater basin, for example, he was convinced that developers should have to make up for new water use by finding ways to conserve water elsewhere at a ratio of 2-to-1. He could not muster enough votes for that, so in order to pass an urgency ordinance for the basin, he accepted a 1-to-1 ratio. We respect that.

While Gibson’s opponent, Muril Clift, has held elected positions — he’s on the Cambria Community Services District Board and served on the Santa Maria Airport District Board and Kern County High School District — we found that he lacks knowledge of some key issues. Even more concerning, he appears too ready to defer to other agencies.

When asked whether he supports the relicensing of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, he told The Tribune Editorial Board that he does not have the expertise to decide that, and would rely on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That’s not acceptable. While the Board of Supervisors does not have jurisdiction on this issue, it can certainly look out for the best interests of constituents. That’s exactly what Gibson has been doing for the past several years, most recently by serving on the Diablo Canyon Independent Peer Review Panel, which oversees seismic safety issues.

While Gibson and Clift are aligned on many issues, they disagree significantly on management of the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin. Clift opposes the idea of conducting a weighted election — one in which bigger property owners would have more of a say — to decide whether to form a water district. He would, however, support a “one man/one vote” election. If that’s not possible, then he’d prefer to see the Board of Supervisors oversee the basin through a county services area.

Gibson, though, rightly points out that if the Board of Supervisors were to vote to establish a district, it would be an even smaller minority making that decision — the five board members.

“My reading on this suggests there are a couple of important principles of governing a common public resource such as water: most importantly that the governing entity should be self-organized and self-governing by individuals who share the benefit of and responsibility for that resource.”

We agree.

That said, we haven’t always seen eye to eye with Gibson. Most notably, we were troubled that after publicly announcing that he had entered into a romantic relationship with his legislative assistant, Gibson decided that she should continue to work for him in that capacity.

As we said in our Jan. 23, 2013, editorial, “We believe it’s a clear conflict of interest for a public official or public employee to supervise a spouse, relative or romantic partner — period.”

Although a county investigation concluded that Gibson violated no county policies — and Gibson and his assistant signed a legal document in which they disclosed their relationship and indemnify the county — we haven’t changed our minds on that.

On balance, though, we believe that Gibson’s qualifications, experience, his hard work and dedication to constituents make him the better choice. In fact, we believe it would be a huge loss to the entire county if Gibson were to leave the board.

The Tribune strongly urges voters in District 2 to re-elect Bruce Gibson to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.

Editorials are the opinion of The Tribune.

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