Candidates exchange jabs at SLO County supervisor debate

Stacy Korsgaden and Adam Hill


Two candidates with sharp contrasts; a focus on social services and the economy; and personal jabs. These were some of the notable moments at Wednesday’s San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors District 3 debate.

Incumbent Supervisor Adam Hill supported raising fees and taxes in order to address issues with homelessness, mental health, housing and roads. In contrast, candidate Stacy Korsgaden promoted lowering fees, monitoring spending, and encouraging businesses that drive the economy.

Forum questions:

How do you stop push back against proposed homeless services centers or shelters, like plans to transform the Hillside Church in Grover Beach into housing for the homeless?

Korsgaden said the Hillside Baptist Church homeless center debacle was caused because of a failure to properly communicate with neighbors and church congregants. She also pointed out that under Hill’s leadership, the number of homeless in the county has increased, saying it is time for new leadership.

Hill said he wants to work with service providers and local nonprofits to reduce homelessness. Under his leadership, Hill said the county is spending more money and has more services than ever before. Hill did not directly address the issues with the Hillside Baptist Church property.

In March 2019, the SLO County Board of Supervisor voted to temporarily raise housing fees to support the construction of low cost housing. What should the county’s next step be?

Hill noted his support for inclusionary housing fees, which has been the county’s only funding source for affordable housing. He pointed out a need to find a dedicated funding source, like more fees on vacation homes and secondary homes.

Hill then said the only path to affordable housing is to have others pay for high density housing. Hill wants goverment to financially support nonprofits, which build low-cost apartment complexes.

Korsgaden disagreed with Hill’s plan to raise housing construction costs in order to build more homes. Instead, Korsgaden said that by lowering fees on low-cost housing, more homes can be built.

“Governments do not build houses, contractors build houses,” Korsgaden said.

Does the SLO County Air Pollution Control District Board need to do more to address the dust issue at the Oceano Dunes?

Korsgaden noted the board’s responsibility for public health and a strong economy. She suggested looking at other options to reduce blowing dust, rather than shutting down recreation at the Oceano Dunes. With Diablo Canyon closing, the county needs to protect local jobs.

Hill called the Oceano Dunes a disgrace. He bragged that he has done more for the economy than anyone else on the SLO County Board of Supervisors. Hill said that health is the most important thing, and that economics is a false choice.

What should the county’s priorities be for economic development at Diablo Canyon after the power plant closes?

Hill wants to reserve the land for public use, saying it is some of the most beautiful land in the state. However, decommissioning will take 10 years. Hill said there in no way to offset the loss of jobs at Diablo Canyon.

“Well, she will not be opening an OHV park out there, cause that would really be in conflict with this community’s interests,” Hill snapped. “What she is saying, is just not based on fact.”

Korsgaden argued the board should have worked to help Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant remain licensed. Because of the “huge economic loss to our county,” she wants the county to promote economically viable projects at Diablo Canyon in addition to a public park area.

What critiques do you have on the current version of the county’s cannabis regulations?

Korsgaden said cannabis is now a legal crop that can bring revenue to the county. However, Korsgaden wants the county only allow cultivation in areas that do not harm other crops or neighbors.

Hill admitted the current board of supervisors has made a mess of cannabis management. He then blamed the conservative board majority. He argued that neighbors already have the ability to voice their concerns.

“We are making it very difficult for the cannabis industry to survive,” Hill said.

Is there a need to do an update to the general plan before allowing more growth in Avila Beach?

Hill said the county has been working on an update to the Avila Beach plan for about five years. And while some residents want to block local events, the Coastal Act says we have to share the coast with everyone; it is a public resource.

Korsgaden also supported events at the Avila Beach Resort. She found, however, that residents do not believe their concerns are being heard. She suggests a focus on finding remedies to traffic issues.

How do you move beyond the divisiveness and contentious attitudes at the Board of Supervisors in order to get things done?

Korsgaden said this is not a partisan job, but an issue job. She noted that people in the community have voiced concerns about Hill’s bullying and scare tactics.

“We have someone in that sandbox who is throwing sand and misbehaving,” Korsgaden said. “I am asking the community to pluck that person out of the sandbox and put me in.”

Hill argued that it is not important if you like someone’s behavior, it is about standing up for what’s right. He then blamed the board majority for contention on the board.

“What Stacy is not understanding, is that her party is in the majority,” Hill said. “It is her party and allies that have been addicted to dysfunction.”

What do you see as the county’s role regarding mental health issues and substance abuse issues?

Hill noted that mental health and substance abuse issues are related to homelessness, “a failure in our goverment for 50 years.” He touted the opening of a crisis stabilization unit during his time on the board, and said that more monies need to be spent on these issues.

Korsgaden said the county has diverted funding earmarked for treating mental illness into reserves. She wants the county to properly use the funding for the benefit of residents.