As members of a Grover Beach audience clutched campaign signs and scribbled questions on index cards, the two men running for a seat on the county Board of Supervisors made final pleas for votes during their last appearance together before the June 5 election.
Familiar themes emerged during a two-hour debate Thursday sponsored by the Latino Outreach Council.
County Supervisor Adam Hill reiterated the board’s success in downsizing county government without layoffs, making pension reforms and approving large projects including solar farms.
His challenger, Pismo Beach Councilman Ed Waage, pointed to Pismo Beach’s fiscal stability and increased tourism revenue while stressing that Hill has supported regulations and policies that will burden the local economy.
There were a few fireworks during the two-hour debate for the 3rd District seat, in which Hill briefly lashed out at Waage for his campaign’s tactics, specifically some campaign fliers.
“There’s nothing more disrespectful to the voters than to run a smear campaign,” he said.
While not directly addressing Hill’s remark, Waage said the public deserves to be listened to with more respect than Hill has shown. “I think character counts,” Waage said.
The candidates were asked more than a dozen questions during the debate. Here’s where they stand on a few issues:
Economic development: Hill said the county has made strides in forming a new economic development strategy. For instance, he said, it took only five weeks for a San Luis Obispo-based company, Level Studios, to get approval to expand its operation.
But Waage countered: “(Hill) said Level Studios was able to get a permit in five weeks, a record. That shouldn’t be a record; that should be a standard for everyone.”
Growth: Both agreed on the importance of preserving agricultural land but differed in their views of the county’s policies toward growth. Hill said the county has strategic growth policies to provide a greater diversity of housing and drive development toward more urbanized areas. Waage said the current policies are too restrictive toward development in the county.
“Not everyone wants to live in high-density cities,” he said.
The Oceano Dunes: Hill said current efforts are under way to reduce dust pollution and address health concerns on the Nipomo Mesa while keeping the riding area open.
“There is no desire on the part of the board to close the property down,” Hill said.
Waage, who has criticized a scientific study done by the county air district as flawed, said additional regulations placed on the Dunes could eventually lead to its closure.
“We need to make sure we get the right answers,” he said.