The two candidates vying to represent District 4 on the Board of Supervisors hashed out their takes on how to solve San Luis Obispo County's problems in a forum in Nipomo on Monday night.
Incumbent Lynn Compton and political newcomer Jimmy Paulding clashed over what the best approach is to increase affordable housing, fix roads, improve air quality on Nipomo Mesa, move toward a green energy economy, maintain the South County lifestyle and support local businesses.
Compton, 55, a small-business owner living in Nipomo, is running on her record of "getting things done" in her first term and pointed to accomplishments made with this Board of Supervisors, such as a new airport terminal, a tourism marketing district and maintaining local control when negotiating the state mandates for groundwater management.
Paulding, 32, of Arroyo Grande is a project manager for public facilities and infrastructure who says he has worked with counties and cities to complete projects on time and under budget. He said he would promote renewable energy over offshore oil and that he would bring a needed vision and a collaborative spirit to the Board of Supervisors.
He asked constituents whether they are better off under Compton's leadership and criticized her prior votes, her criticized her for saying crime rates had gone down and said they'd actually gone up, and implied some of her votes were politically motivated and based on contributions she'd received from the oil industry and developers.
Compton denied the accusations, said she's not taking any money from oil, asserted that crime rates have gone down, and played up his young age, calling him a kid.
Paulding said he has been endorsed by the SLO County Employee's Association because of a partisan gridlock on the board that has had a negative impact on the county, and that the "board is so toxic because of my opponent."
Compton said she's received the endorsements from fire and public safety agencies, as well as small-business owners. She said the county is in difficult contract negotiation with the employees and, "I think you can figure out why they did not endorse me."
The forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Latino Outreach Council. LOC President Jacqueline Frederick was moderator. It can be viewed online on at SLO-Span.
The two will debate again 6 p.m. Thursday at the Oceano Community Service District Office, 1655 Front St.
Questions and answers have been edited for length.
How can we have more workforce housing?
"What we need are supervisors who actually want to put the working people first, not the special interests, like developers," said Paulding, who said he hasn't taken money from developers, "unlike my opponent."
He said he supports an inclusionary housing program used statewide that requires developers to either build a certain number of affordable units in projects or pay in-lieu fees. He supports implementing other county programs to increase housing, such as creating incentives for homeowners to build accessory houses in their backyards.
"I don't believe local governments make homes," Compton responded. "I don't know why we demonize developers when they make the homes."
She said the housing problem is not SLO County's alone, that "it has to pencil for developers." She said that the board has streamlined processes and policies, reduced fees and simplified zoning. She said the county needs reform of the California Environmental Quality Act.
Compton was critical of the inclusionary housing program and said she is "opposed to a fee or tax on homes to create a home for other people."
How do we maintain riding at Oceano Dunes and address air quality downwind?
Compton dodged taking a stance on this issue and instead talked about a recent settlement between State Parks and the Air Pollution Control District to reduce airborne emissions. She has full faith and confidence that things will be better now that there are new people in charge of both agencies.
Paulding criticized Compton for not being involved when the air on the South County is sometimes the worst in the nation, and he accused her of challenging the science.
"We've had a supervisor that hasn't given the the issue or (those) whose health is effected the time of day," Paulding said. "You didn’t hear her mention any involvement of helping bring people together or get anything done."
"We need someone that won't challenge the science. ... I don't want to close down the dunes. I want to improve public health," Paulding said.
How will you protect the rural character of the South County?
Compton said the community can't grow without water and infrastructure, and "that protects the rural character we love here."
"I don't think anybody in Nipomo wants a stack-and-pack community, which the state is pushing down on us," Compton said.
Paulding said the state is pushing development because there is a lack of affordable housing, and if the county doesn't meet affordability goals, the state can allow developers to bypass local government rules.
"We need to get our act together," Paulding said.
He said there are places like old town Nipomo that are underutilized.
Money for parks
Compton said the South County generated $11.4 million in public facilities fees, but when the county was going to develop a local park, the fees went outside of the district, mostly to the northwest part of the county.
"When we figured this out, there was only $1.5 million left in that fund," Compton said.
"All the projects the incumbent speaks of are underfunded and incomplete," Paulding said.
He criticized her for allegedly not paying attention when the money was being spent — "What was going on for the first three years she was in office?" — and then touted his grant fundraising experience that could be used to identify state matching funds.
Compton later shot back: "What happened to the money for parks? It was pilfered by the two supervisors that support you, that's what happened to it," a reference to supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson.
How do we fund needed road work?
Paulding expressed support for SB1, the gas tax, and said without those funds, the county won't be able to address infrastructure needs. He said Compton is against it, and she was also against Measure J, a half-cent sales tax. Without that tax, he said, the county lost matching state funds that are now going to other jurisdictions.
Compton said SB1 caused every family to pay an average of $300 more than before, while the state already has the highest gas taxes in the nation. She said she was critical of Measure J revenues going to bike, pedestrian and transit work, and called it a regressive tax.
"I don't believe we should have our taxes raised when Sacramento is at a record budget surplus right now and has mismanaged our funds," Compton said.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct a statement Jimmy Paulding made about crime rates. He criticized Lynn Compton for saying crime rates have decreased, saying that crime rates increased.