Caren Ray remains best choice for County Supervisor job

Caren Ray
Caren Ray dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Caren Ray was our choice in the primary election, and we remain convinced that she is the best candidate for the job.

Ray has more government experience at both local and regional levels; she’s knowledgeable about countywide issues; and she brings a keenly analytical perspective to the board. She has the ability to weigh all sides of an issue — be it water, housing, energy or the environment — and focuses on finding fair solutions.

We’ve also found Ray to be accessible and responsive to her constituents. For example, when Nipomo residents complained that a wholesale nursery was operating as a distribution center — in violation of county regulations — Ray insisted that county code enforcement open a third investigation. As a result, the distribution side of the business relocated.

We’ve been impressed, too, with her independence. As we noted in our last endorsement, critics suspected that Ray, a Democrat, would routinely vote with Bruce Gibson and Adam Hill. That hasn’t been the case.

On a key vote on the formation of the Paso Robles groundwater basin management district, for instance, she sided with more conservative board members Frank Mecham and Debbie Arnold in favoring equal votes for all landowners, rather than allowing formation to be decided by a weighted vote based on acreage.

Ray may, in fact, be the most centrist member of the board — perhaps more so than some of her more liberal constituents would like. For example, at a recent candidates’ forum sponsored by The Tribune, she said she “absolutely” supports relicensing the Diablo Canyon Power Plant and is against allowing “brick and mortar” medical marijuana dispensaries in the unincorporated areas.

Her opponent, Lynn Compton, is smart and hard-working, and in spite of her lack of political experience, we believe she would be able to get quickly up to speed. She would be a strong voice for private property rights and fiscal restraint, yet we fear that her dogmatically conservative approach is contributing to a divisive “us- against-them” attitude in the South County.

We are concerned, too, about some inconsistencies in Compton’s message, especially on the critical issue of water.

At the candidates’ forum, for example, her response to a question about water supply included this statement: “Our problem is we’ve used all of our groundwater and depleted that and we don’t have that being replenished.”

Yet at the same forum, Compton said she does not support the urgency ordinance in effect in the Paso Robles groundwater basin; she told the audience there is only “anecdotal evidence” of a small number of wells going dry.

In another instance, Compton supported opening additional areas of the county to the development of workforce housing, and spoke favorably of the Central Valley’s less stringent interpretation of building guidelines. Yet in a recent campaign letter, she criticized Ray’s acceptance of campaign donations from developers and raised the question: “Where is the water for all of these projects?”

We also would have liked to have seen the Compton campaign focus more over these past few months on her own goals and strengths, and less on demonizing Ray.

Nowhere is that pattern more apparent than in Compton’s constant accusations that Ray is trying to gut Proposition 13.

For the record, Ray has never even remotely suggested that taxes on residential property be raised beyond what is allowed by Proposition 13.

Rather, her vote on a legislative platform item dealing primarily with sales tax — a platform supported by four of the five supervisors — was grossly misrepresented by the Compton campaign. (See sidebar)

We strongly urge voters to look past these disingenuous half-truths and consider Ray’s experience, her voting record, and her ability to see all sides of an issue.

The Tribune strongly endorses Caren Ray for 4th District supervisor.