The race for 5th District county supervisor is a rematch between two-term incumbent Jim Patterson and challenger Debbie Arnold, who served as aide to former Supervisor Mike Ryan and, more recently, to state Sen. Sam Blakeslee.
We endorsed Patterson in 2008, and we do so in this race as well. If anything, Patterson is an even stronger county supervisor today, having helped lead the county through one of the worst fiscal crises in its history.
Of the two candidates, we also find him the more moderate — despite attempts by the opposition to paint him as a wacko environmentalist who never met a regulation or a tax he didn’t like. On the contrary, Patterson has often voted in favor of the very projects and policies that environmentalists and slow-growth advocates have opposed, sometimes alienating staunch supporters in the process.
His votes in favor of the solar farms on the Carrisa Plains are the most often cited examples, but in reviewing his voting record over the past four years, we’ve found plenty of other instances in which Patterson’s decisions have shown him to be afar more moderate candidate than the one his critics portray.
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A few examples:
He joined more conservative members of the Board of Supervisors in voting in favor of some controversial developments, including a 107-unit housing project in Templeton; a commercial project north of Trader Joe’s in Tem pleton; and a big bluff-top house in Cayucos.
Patterson asked for the resignation of his former appointee to the Planning Commission, Sarah Christie, a strong environmentalist who was also on the Coastal Commission staff. Patterson was concerned that, with Christie on the commission, applicants were not being treated evenhandedly. “It was like going to court and thinking the judge is biased and you don’t have a chance,” he said at the time.
He unequivocally supported adding a representative of the development community to the county Water Resources Advisory Council. “It’s a voice that we should hear from,” he said.
In 2010, Patterson voted against supporting Proposition 21, the state measure that would have added an $18 surcharge to vehicle licenses to support state parks. Patterson said that, because only 15 to 20 percent of Californians use the parks, it would not be fair to tax them.
While we haven’t always agreed with Patterson — we were especially disappointed in his opposition to Proposition 21, for example — we appreciate his ability to weigh the pros and cons of issues, to strive for compromise and to ultimately vote for what he believes is best for all constituents.
We aren’t convinced Arnold would have that ability. Judging by her campaign, she appears intent on widening the growing gap between liberals and conservatives by attacking not only Patterson, but the entire county leadership.
At a recent meeting of The Tribune Editorial Board, for example, she had not one positive thing to say about the performance of the board as a whole over the past four years, and she blamed the county for implementing some policies that actually originated from the state.
We’re concerned, too, about misleading information that’s been circulated by her campaign.
One example: A recent mailer criticizes Patterson for “voting to pay the Air Pollution Control Officer $240,119 per year (a 17 percent raise) in tough economic times.” What the mailer doesn’t say is that the $240,119 includes salary and benefits. The air pollution control officer actually earns $148,678 per year in pay, and his salary and benefits are comparable to what other department heads earn. For example, salary and benefits for the county planning director total $219,000, and for the public works director, the total is $255,190.
We understand that Arnold is opposed to many of the recent policies of the Air Pollution Control Board, including those aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Fair enough. But why drag a county employee into the fray?
We’re concerned, too, about Arnold’s lack of specific initiatives; we’ve mostly heard vague promises about doing away with excessive regulations and getting the economy back on track.
Patterson, on the other hand, has focused on the need to complete projects that are in process, such as the Atascadero library and the Los Osos wastewater treatment plant, and to provide adequate infrastructure for the future growth that will aid the county’s economic recovery.
We believe Patterson will continue to bring a balanced approach to the county Board of Super visors — one that supports industrial, commercial and residential growth, though not at the expense of the environmental protections and preser vation of open space that are critical to maintaining the quality and character of San Luis Obispo County.
The Tribune strongly urges voters in the 5th District to re-elect Jim Patterson.