In evaluating the candidates for District 5 of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, The Tribune Editorial Board was unsure about how my policy agenda differs from incumbent Supervisor Debbie Arnold, concluding that the race comes down to “ideology.” But a closer examination shows that this race is not about differing ideologies. Rather, voters are faced with a choice between policy based on ideology and policy based on evidence.
Indeed, one of the main reasons I was compelled to run for this, my first elective office, was because I could no longer stand by while the incumbent continually supported ideological extremism and deception at the expense of our communities.
Consider the continuing controversy over the Las Pilitas gravel quarry in Santa Margarita. Despite an impact report that documented a record number of unmitigated health and environmental threats to the community, Arnold fought to approve and continues to support the quarry, going so far as to repeat unsubstantiated claims about homeowners knowing that a quarry might come in, or that the county is running out of aggregate. If the quarry comes back up for a vote and I am supervisor, my decision will be based solely on the capacity of the owners to mitigate the risk to the community.
Similarly, in the ongoing controversy over the Phillips 66 rail spur project, Arnold appears to again be impervious to evidence of the threat the project poses as currently proposed. Despite the growing frequency of deadly oil train derailments across the country and written concerns submitted to the county by local governments and emergency response crews across the state, Arnold recently referred to this as simply a “parking lot” issue at a recent forum. Again, I can’t say exactly how I would vote in the future on such a project, but I would certainly take into account all available evidence on the benefits and potential costs to the county, and I will fight to keep our people safe.
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Moreover, I will fight to educate and clarify the evidence for citizens when we don’t have all the answers, as we often don’t. Unlike the incumbent, I’ll never condone conspiracy theories or pretend that “both sides have a point” when the evidence overwhelmingly favors one conclusion over the other, as is the case with human-induced climate change. Instead, I promise to take the science we have and use it implement effective policies, such as sustainable farming techniques, water capture and effective local management of our natural resources. We don’t have to agree on ideology to agree on getting effective results. By contrast, at the height of the water crisis last summer, Arnold stuck her head in the dry ground and supported large landowners who lawyered up to grab as much water as they could.
I’m not an ideologue. I’m proud to have Republicans and Democrats working on my campaign. If you are looking for someone who will always vote the party line, I’m not your guy. I won’t always agree with Bruce Gibson — or Lynn Compton — but I do promise to work with both of them. And I’ll work for you, if you give me the honor of serving.
Eric Michielssen is running for supervisor for San Luis Obispo County District 5.