Gibson, Clift highlight differences in Cambria forum

Candidates talk water and growth among other topics

San Luis Obispo - The TribuneMay 17, 2014 

District 2 supervisor candidates agreed on many issues at a Cambria forum last week but continued to hone in on the main issues on which they disagree: if and how Cambria should grow and whether the town’s water-shortage crisis is a result of the resource being poorly managed (Bruce Gibson’s take) or progress obstructed by county bureaucrats (Muril Clift’s viewpoint).

Gibson, the current supervisor, is running for a third term. Clift is a director of Cambria Community Services District, which provides water, wastewater and other services to the community.

District staffers estimate the town could run out of water by late summer. Residents and businesses are under stringent water restrictions.

On the topic of water, there was some agreement between the candidates at the forum, co-sponsored by University Women of Cambria and the county League of Women Voters. The two-hour event at the Cambria Connection on Monday attracted an audience of about 50 people.

Clift and Gibson weren’t the only ones focused on water issues: 17 of the nearly 30 questions submitted by audience members were water-related.

Water queries included questions about: CCSD issues; communication with farmers and ranchers about aquifers; firefighting supplies; the Paso Robles groundwater basin situation; desalination, for Cambria or the county; a disaster plan if Cambria does run out of water this fall; the effect  of tourism on water supplies; and how an exemption to fill the pool at the county’s Shamel Park in Cambria this summer was approved.

Other questions covered emergency medical services, the homeless, whether the Tour of California bicycle race should have stopped in Cambria, pensions, budgets, Highway 1 safety and problems faced by other communities.

On growth, Clift again accused Gibson of having gone from a “smart growth” position to “no growth,” a position that ultimately would “change the character of the communities because the average person can’t afford to live here,” Clift said.

Gibson replied to the accusation that he’s “no growth” as being “absolutely without foundation,” and that Clift had never provided specifics or proof of his charge. “We need to grow sensibly and within our resources,” Gibson said.

Clift responded that he ultimately supports Cambria’s build-out cap of 4,650 connections (about 20 percent more than the current level), “at a rate of 10 to 20 homes a year.”

Gibson said he is running on his record of collaborative efforts, with such projects as the new Cambria Library, pressuring Caltrans to redo the rocky Highway 1 surface north of Cambria, collaboration with the community of Cayucos to get the pier there fixed, and a “lot of bridge-building, both literally and figuratively.”

Clift offered his “different style” of governing, which he said is “in how we approach particular problems. My whole career has been talking with people, learning what they perceive the problems and solutions are.”

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