Each of the three candidates for 4th District Supervisor attended and participated in their second forum at the South County Regional Center on 5/11/06. The fourm was moderated by the League of Women Voters, and hosted by the Nipomo Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Arroyo Grande Chamber of Commerce, and the Oceano Improvement Association. I attended the forum and took notes. This post, like my similar previous post on the first forum, will reflect the general thrust of the questions, and the candidates' responses. They are not meant to be exact quotes; but, they will contain the essential elements of the responses.
I thought this forum's format helped educate voters better about the three candidates and their knowledge about the specific issues facing District 4. None of the candidates had the questions given to them before the forum. Each of the candidates was read a question, which had been written by an audience member, and turned in to the League of Women Voters to read. Each candidate had the same opportunity of preparing their responses. It was very enlightening.
Thanks audience for attendance. She is a 17 year Nipomo resident, and married 43 years. She is a business woman 26 years in grapic design and printing. She serves on the NCSD, for six years. She runs for supervisor for many reasons and issues. There is a lot of disparity. She pulled out several folders which she labeled her causes, including: Oceano Flood Control, tax assesment; Oceano Community Center, play to pay; Oceano mandatory curbs and sidewalks, which discourages remodeling and repairs; Nipomo flooding; NCSD annexation 15% water conservation so developers can build million dollar homes–claims incumbent only listens to developers and special interest groups; Out of control growth in Nipomo; Incumbent believes he has helped community beyond belief.
Thanks audience for attendance. He lives in Cypress Ridge for last five and one-half years, but coming to the Central Coast for the last 30 years. His background includes a degree in Administrative Management from Cal State Los Angeles. He has worked for a water products company, Adoph Coors Company, and Anheuser Busch Company, in managment and sales positions.
He runs because he doesn't like what he sees. He doesn't like what the community is turning in to. He saw the total devastation of Orange County. We live here for a reason. It is beautiful, and a slow way of life which he wants to preserve. Supervisors deal with many issues; however, his campaign is focusing on three main issues: Out of control growth, high density growth; Lack of infrastructure; Water issues. These issues involve the entire county, not just District 4. Other issues include affordable housing, schools, health care, fire, police, sheriff, all important; however, he is concentrating on the three main issues he highlighted.
He can provide leadership, vision, new blood and new ways of thinking. He is not a politician but a business person. Wasted money in government can be corrected if you have proper leadership and planning. This is why he is running and what he offers to the voters.
Thanks to those attending, and those sponsoring event. He has been a local businessman for 28 years and a member of the Arroyo Grande Chamber of Commerce for 28 years. The A.G. Chamber has honored him as 1984 Citizen of the Year Award, and recently as Our Hero Ward. He has been a member of the Nipomo Chamber for over 9 years. He is also a member of the Oceano Improvement Association.
His background includes living in the county over 36 years. He has been happily married for 22 years. His son, attends Cal Poly, and his daughter attends Mission College Prep. He is a graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, with a degree in Business Administration.
He was involved in the $25 million dollar retrofit of the Lopez Dam to ensure the availability of its water. In Oceano, he was involved in the building of the new library. The county has redone the park, playground and restrooms as well. In Nipomo, he was involved in purchasing an additional 10 acres to the Nipomo regional park. The county, on his watch has also accepted 30 acres for a passive park. With the help of the Dana Adobe Amigos Board members, Katcho, and some developers they were able to purchase and preserve 100 cares around the Dana Adobe.
In Arroyo Grande, he holds regular meetings with their city council, to mitigate any impact of projects between the city and the county. He looks forward to answering questions tonight. He asks voters to consider when people wanted to preserve land, they came to him to help preserve land around the Dana Adobe. He is a consensus builder, who builds bridges, who can stand on his own record.
Question 1 What is most important issue facing our county, other than water and planning/development?
Candidate McSweeney: He confirms the question does not deal with water or developement. But, the question doesn't deal with infrastructre, which he doesn't believe has anything to do with development. It is a major issue. Roads aren't being planned for. The Woodlands in Nipomo which started 16 years ago, is being built out and there is no road. Politics moves slowly. This is a major issue. How can we accomplish this? He doesn't know. There is a lot of planning involved, meetings to attend, and to decide where the money comes from. He doesn't have a quick answer. If anyone does, it is only political rhetoric. Here is here to help us out. The voice of the people must be heard. When it comes to roads, planning is important, in the upper level management. Funding could be up to the people, in the form of taxes–even though he doesn't like to speak about taxes. He will communicate this to everyone in the county.
Candidate Wirsing: The foundation of a healthy community and county is the family. Affordable housing and parks is where we all grow up and be good citizens. We need to address true affordable housing that is family oriented, and not smart growth stacked on top surrounded by cement. We need affordable housing with a small yard, and parks where there is dense housing. There are no parks on the east side of Oceano or Nipomo where children play. Nipomo's south side where all the dense housing have gone there is not one park. The children play in the streets and sidewalks and commercial parking lots. A healthy county is founded on family structure, affordable housing, healthy children, families and good jobs.
Candidate Achadjian: How can you build affordable housing if you don't want growth? But, there are other issues facing San Luis Obispo County.
Law Enforcement–He has been endorsed by San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Pat Hedges and District Attorney Gerald Shae, because he has worked closely with them to make certain our neighborhoods are safe.
Children's Health–He was a founding member of the Children's Health Initiative. Over 600 kids are now getting health insurance that were not insured previously. The county is partnering with cities and Blue Shield to make certain more children receive health insurance.
Education–He has been involved in bringing over $1 million to Oceano to start school readiness programs because they are part of our future.
My Analysis: Katcho was the only candidate who actually responded to the question asked. The question asked each candidate to speak to an issue, or issues, other than growth or water. Mr. McSweeny started off immediately speaking about infrastructure, and pretending that it somehow had nothing to do with growth. While, growth and infrastructure are important, they are not the only issues facing the county. I believe this response confirms my earlier analysis of Mr. McSweeny's campaign as being a one issue campaign, i.e., water/growth. Even when asked, he was unable to address an issue other than water/growth. Infrastructure is so wedded to growth they are inseparable.
Ms. Wirsing was likewise unable to actually respond to the question asked. Her issue was affordable housing–again a growth issue. Her inability, like Mr. McSweey's to actually answer a question other than growth/water related reflects single issue candidates, despite the plethora of issues facing the county.
Katcho was the only candidate who actually spoke to issues not related to growth. He hit on three very important ones: Law enforcement, health care/insurance coverage, and education. This shows Katcho realizes there are issues other than just growth and water in our county.
Question 2 What involvement have you had with Lucia Mar Unified School District, Cuesta College or Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and what projects have you been involved with in any of these agencies:
Candidate Achadjian: As a Cal Poly graduate he is a life time alumni, and works closely with the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center. He supported Measure D for Cuesta College's tax increase for their benefit. He attends a Latino outreach group. He is a founding member of the Clark Center Performing Arts Center, and worked with Lucia Mar School District to put the center on their property. He also partnered with Lucia Mar to build soccer fields at Nipomo High School. He also partnered with the district and the Rotary Club for restrooms. He is also partnering with the Oceano CSD and Lucia Mar to place playgrounds in the Oceano area on Lucia Mar property. The list goes on; but, his time ran out.
Candidate Wirsing: Schools go hand in hand with healthy families and children. She always admires school districts that have good reputations with children graduating with high honors and students who want higher education. She grew up in the San Fernando Valley where there was one of the worst schools. She appreciates dedication for those who desire to participate in schools with their children. We are lucky to have Nipomo High School, recently built, of which we are very proud. Arroyo Grande High School has tremendous honors, and is a very proud high school. We are proud of the whole district. Cuesta College and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo are very well known and respected. This makes it a wonderful county, and they should all be supported.
Candidate McSweeney: This is his first time in politics. He has not worked with the school system here or any projects; however, education is one of the most important issues we face as a society. Our children who are educated today are our future. We need to make certain education is funded properly, which has not been done over the past several years. This can change. He doesn't know whether a supervisor be very instrumental in change in funding. This comes from the state level down. We can fight for our funding. He can investigate problems and how we can improve Lucia Mar and the other school districts in the area. Education is our most important future resource. He has not been involved in any policy making or any other projects regarding schools because he has not been in politics before.
My Analysis: Again, Katcho's response was the most detailed of the three. He clearly has the most experience with the current school system, including having graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Ms. Wirsing essentially rambled in her response about general platitudes involving education and about how we should be proud of our local system; but, there was nothing about her own experience in helping local schools or her involvement, if any with them.
Mr. McSweeney candidly admitted he has no experience in the local school system; but, his reasoning was a bit weak. In order to be involved in the local school system one would have to have previously been in politics. Since he had not been, he has not previously been involved. He did mention though that education is the most important future resource for our children and by extension ourselves–a proposition with which I think we can all agree.
Question 3 A county project study report on Halcyon Road recommends the redesign of Halcyon. Do you support this plan, and what is your position on the proposed changes to Halcyon Road?
Candidate Wirsing: Halcyon Road is a country road, which she travels everyday. It is a very dangerous road, where she sees crosses of those who have met their end. It is a farm and country road. With increased population and development there has been increased traffic. We need to address many of our roads. She believes the road should be redesigned to protect motorists and the resident farmers. She likes to see safe roads. She believes roads should go along with development. If we have continued out of control growth we have to address the roads. The citizens are taxpayers and deserve respect and safety on the roads. The potholes need to be fixed. This is an important project that needs to be addressed for the safety of the citizens.
Candidate McSweeney: He hasn't seen all the issues on this. He knows they want to straighten Halcyon and go through some Ag land. He is not sure he agrees with this. He would like to have seen some changes in infrastructure before there was a traffic problem. If the planned had been planned from the beginning we wouldn't have this traffic problem. Willow road is one of these roads, as are numerous other roads from other developments. When you plan a community you plan 30 to 40 years in advance. You can't be reactionary and conclude there is a problem and just solve it. He would like to investigate other options to see what can be done to alleviate traffic in the area. We should not limit ourselves to just one road that has a problem. Why don't we try to alleviate the traffic elsewhere. We need to investigate and see if we can work it another way. We need to look at costs and feasibility. He does not see that in the plan now. He wants to investigate more. He would not straighten the road and go for it at this time.
Candidate Achadjian: He should have gone first to give everyone an idea on what we were talking about here. Halcyon realignment came to the county when the Cypress Ridge development approved prior to Katcho's tenure. The development fees were to pay for the traffic light at Highway One and Halcyon. Cal Trans said the county could not do that unless they first straightened the road. That is the issue here. To straighten the road, Public Works studied the alternatives to straighten the road. They held a community meeting in this very room to talk about the alternatives and what the community would support. He does not support what is currently proposed because it will damage some of the Ag land around it. It would also displace some people from their homes. Therefore he opposes the project as planned. He believes it is better to go through Highway 1 where there are some dangerous portions.
Having the current study in place will them persuade Cal Trans that the project is not feasible as currently planned. There is another way by widening the bridge; but, this would require nine different agencies from Fish and Game to the Army Corps of Engineers, which means that option is not feasible.
My Analysis: Katcho's response was again the most substantive of the three candidates. His knowledge of the subject matter was far superior to either Mr. McSweeny or Ms. Wirsing. Ms. Wirsing spoke mostly in generalities about favoring safe roads, and public safety on the roadway. It is unclear whether she really believes any of her opponents favor unsafe roads or not. Mr. McSweeny opposed the plan; but mostly dwelt on poor previous planning. He did not provide any substantive response to how he would do the project differently or why.
Question 4: Is it time for the Board of Supervisors to look into mass transit?
Candidate Achadjian: As a member of the San Luis Council of Governments (SLOCOG), this is a real issue. The real question is where will the money come from? There would be a need assessment around the county in the different communities. Who needs transportation, and what type is needed. Where are the universities and shopping centers? We are on the right track with the current buses in the south county and also Ride-On. Since our county is half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles they are also working with rail as well. There are some logistics issues, however, with rail.
The county is also doing a good job with the San Luis Obispo Airport. As we attract more business here we need more air transport as well.
Candidate Wirsing: We live in the country. This is not really subject about which she knows very much; but, she does know about buses. Katcho has been in this business for seven years so he is more up to date on these issues. When she is supervisor she will know more about this issue too. It is really difficult to just know everything. She sees more buses on the increase. People use them more as we become more populated. She likes the idea there are smaller buses that transport the senior citizens around. Our children are getting more familiar with them as they go to and from school. This is a subject she needs to learn more about before she can really discuss it further.
Candidate McSweeney: It depends on what you are talking about with mass transit, whether you mean buses or trains. He does not favor trains because of costs. He suggests that we think outside of the box. There are towns that have buses and bicycles. Why not have a large parking lot for cars that go from one city to another? You could park, then ride the bus and ride to where you need to go in town. This is out of the box thinking. Why not have buses in your own town, drive to you a parking lot there, grab a bus from Nipomo to San Luis to another bus stop. You could then take trolleys or buses around town.
Another idea is bicycles. There are a tremendous amount of bicycle people around. He has talked with a great deal of them. San Luis Obispo has 20,000 students and they all ride bikes. If you have bike racks in the city, you will have more students riding into town rather than driving cars. You can also have more bike racks on buses to accommodate the bicycle people. This is just some out of the box thinking that he came up with in the last minute to throw out there.
Like Ms. Wirsing he is not really up on this. You have to go with the flow, talk with the people, figure out what is feasible and go with your gut instinct.
My Analysis: This was a very interesting series of responses. Katcho, again had the most substantive response of the three candidates. His two opponents by their own admission believe Katcho is more qualified to discuss and address this issue than they are. Ms. Wirsing noted that Katcho has been a supervisor for seven years, and that when she has been a supervisor that long she too will know something about the issue. Mr. McSweeney echoed a similar statement, though not with those same words. My concern is why should be hire a candidate who needs, by their own admission, on the job training, when we already have a very well qualified and knowledgeable candidate serving in the job and seeking reelection.
Mr. McSweeney's out of the box thinking sounded a great deal like park and ride, already utilized a great deal in southern California, as well as San Francisco. It may be a good idea; but, I'm not so sure out of the box it is, because of its success already realized in larger metropolitan areas in California. While many Cal Poly students may own and ride bicycles, I'm not sure where he got his statistic that they all ride them, or that there is a great deal of traffic problems generated by students descending on the downtown area. The 20,000 plus figure Mr. McSweeny quoted is actually closer to 18,000.
Question 5: What do you feel is the county's responsibility for flooding in Oceano?
Candidate McSweeney: The county is responsible for helping these people. He has driven through two feet of water in his car. This community is lost on the map. It is an older community, with very small homes. People there are upset about a number of issues. He is not up on exactly on what the issues are on the flooding. He needs more education on these issues; but he can still make an informed decision. He doesn’t know why this wasn't addressed years ago. He came up here 20 or 30 years ago and there was flooding then, which he drove through. The county needs to get down there, and examine the situation, and where to put storm drains. They need to figure out what is cost effective. They need to listen to the people when they say they are forgotten. He has heard feed back the county has not been coming out and saying anything. The bottom line is that the county is responsible.
Candidate Wirsing: The only reason Oceano is lost is that it has been neglected. There has been flooding in Ocean since the beginning of time. She held up various photos of flooding from 2004 to the present, all reflecting the same flooding problem, at the same corner. It is time to get support from elected officials. She has a list of things that need to be done. We cannot put up with anymore flooding. These people pay property taxes. These taxes need to stay in this community and address this issue. No more hiding your face and making sure it goes away. This is simple neglect that has been going on since the beginning of time. It is time to bring this to the fore front which she will do.
Candidate Achadjian: If you build in a flood plane, you are likely to get flooded. Several years ago, folks in Arroyo Grande built the Arroyo Grande channel to route water from Lopez Lake to the ocean. In 1974 the Endangered Species Act prohibited certain types of clean up of the channel. Then there was Proposition 218. Prior, the county was able to raise funds to do proper clean up to avoid flooding. Since 218 you need a 2/3 majority. Things got worse. The county was tired of the liability. The state took over. The State will do the job for about $8 million within five years; however, that would have pushed many people out of their houses.
Many folks came to him claiming they wanted local control to solve the problem. They put a task force together and have come up with a plan. They will put it on the ballot to let the people decide whether or not they like the plan, and whether they are willing to pay for it.
My Analysis: I think Katcho's response reflects a knowledge of the history of this problem, far greater than Ms. Wirsing's responses or Mr. McSweeney's. Ms. Wirsing is convinced the county has simply neglected Oceano, or at least Katcho has. I don't think this is born out by the facts. The county, is actually helping by the study they have done and assisting in putting the matter on the ballot. This is really an issue with no easy answers. Katcho is correct that it would require a 2/3 majority to raise taxes to cover repairs. The fact remains is that any correction to any flooding problem, Oceano or Nipomo, will cost money. Where will that money come from? Currently the County has allocated only $3,000,000 county wide, a figure I assume the budget will allow. If that is the case, then from where will the remaining funds come?
A county wide measure to raise money for Oceano would likely fail. Why are voters outside the Oceano area likely to vote to increase their taxes to pay for flooding repairs in south county? Would Oceano voters increase their taxes to pay for similar repairs in Cambria, or elsewhere? Unlikely. It does make some sense to have local residents retain local control and attempt to resolve the problem with as much county aid as is possible. If the local residents are not in favor of a tax increase to help ease the flooding problems, then they won't pass one. This is an issue county wide, not just down south. The solution is just as difficult county wide as well.
Question 6: How will you plan to influence staff to be more responsive to the citizen concerns?
Candidate Wirsing: We have a golden opportunity to have three board members who will actually think of the majority of the people who live here. When working with staff you have to compromise; however, you can say it is time to change the tables. We want to not concentrate on opening the door to developers. She is not against growth. She is for controlled growth. This will be an important issue. County staff, when she is elected, they will know when she is elected, they will know where she is coming from because there will be three of them. It will be an opportunity for the county to cool down, take a breather, address the infrastructure, and the severe water problems in Nipomo. We are in critical overdraft in Nipomo. This will influence the whole county, and can affect every tax payer and every child. They want us to cut back 15% just in the NCSD so we can build million dollar homes. She will not cut back (on water usage), and does not expect her neighbors to cut back. She expects staff to work very diligently with the board who will care about the county.
Candidate Achadjian: He thanks county staff. They are great professionals. They are just like we are. They go home to their families like we all do. They go to church and shop just like we do. They are professionals, which is why they hire them. We all know that government does not work like the private sector. In his own business he can hire and fire at will. It doesn't work the same in government. He believes county staff has done a great job. They have a great working relationship. They are professionals. The supervisors are elected because of their philosophy, not because they have expertise in planning or public health. So far the board and staff are doing a good job. One change since he took office is that if you are a department head, you are an at will employee for the board. The staff underneath are protected by unions; however, the department heads need to perform or look for other jobs. There is room for improvement. Again thanks the public staff and employees. They are public servants, not public slaves.
Candidate McSweeney: He doesn't like the word influence. When you come into a new organization there is a time to know the new people and to build relationships. This is true in government and the private sector. We have to build relationships and also do team building. You have to communicate with the people. Communication is the key to anything you want to accomplish. They have to know where he's coming from and he them. Team building and working together is important for a common goal.
My Analysis: There couldn't be a greater difference in philosophy between Katcho and Mr. Wirsing on this particular issue. One really had to hear the differences in tone between these two to really appreciate them. Katcho's response was respectful of county staff as professionals, treating them just like we are since they are like we are. They have families, homes, and do the same things we do with our families and in our homes. Yes, there is a working relationship; but, Katcho's approach of treating them as professionals and with respect stood in stark contract to Ms. Wirsing's comment about how when she gets elected that staff would absolutely know where she was coming from. She also wasted most of her response time to talk about uncontrolled growth and water shortages–not at all the focus of the question.
Mr. McSweeney also gave a good response to this question. I liked his emphasis on building relationships, and taking time to know one another. Both Katcho and Mr. McSweeney understand the importance of and the secret to dealing with people. Be respectful, take time to listen and know one another. Good responses from these two candidates. Ms. Wirsing's approach was much more like a bull in a china shop.
Question 7: How will you respect and protect the 1/% growth cap; how long is it feasible to keep the cap at 1.8%; and, what can you do to ensure that our children will be able to afford to buy a home here?
Candidate Achadjian: He begins by asking the rhetorical question how many support growth, and how many support affordable housing? Most will support affordable housing, but not growth. Aren't they the same thing? Everyone wants affordable housing, but not in their back yard. Under Katcho, for the first time Nipomo has had a growth cap. For the first time Nipomo had a growth cap lower than the cap. You could probably not go lower than 1/8%. State Water Code section 350 requires findings in order to impose a building moratorium. You have to be careful about what you say and promise. The higher the education we can give to our children is a one way ticket out of here.
Anything lower than 1.8% won't allow for infrastructure improvements, i.e., Willow Road extension. The other supervisors would not support a cap lower than 1.8%. If you need to lose weight you go on a balanced diet, not a starvation diet. This is a challenging issue, which they are facing. The county and Nipomo are on the right track.
Candidate Wirsing: We are in a developer's paradise. They always want to make a deal. They will give us a couple of little affordable houses. She wants to know when the developers will "step up to the plate" and "make a nice give back to this community–give back to this entire county–and develop housing that they don't have to make a killing on. Let's be fair." We can open the door to them. They just need to open the door to us. It is time they take into consideration we have an extremely serious water problem in this district. She has all the water elevations if you want to see them.
We have a 1.8% cap for a reason. The reason is water. We cannot live without water. We cannot exist without water. She doesn't want a building moratorium. She doesn't want a water moratorium. She doesn't want to cut back 50%. There is seawater intrusion from Monterey to San Diego. We are the last place that doesn't have seawater intrusion. If we continue at this rate, we will be just like them. This is not fair. She will say no, and will work and work to make this a fair district, with affordable housing compatible with raising families and having a little green yard around our house. She will not stop taking a bath.
Candidate McSweeney: This is a very complex question that can't be answered in two minutes. What is the vision of this county? Most he talked with say rural. They want homes on five or 10 acres of property. He agrees with this growth. He does not agree with dense growth, including Crystal Oaks or The Woodlands. He doesn't like the project in Oceano with dense housing achieved only by tearing down single family homes. No one has told him what affordable housing is. Affordable housing where he lives (Cypress Ridge) would be a bargain at $500,000. Who can afford that. You can't answer the question until you define what it is, i.e., apartments or trailers or what? This is a state wide issue. No one has yet come up with a good answer on how to provide affordable housing. He will be the first to say it is not feasible. Staff should work on it, and possible partner with the state because it is a hot issue.
My Analysis: Katcho was the only candidate attempting to respond to the question on real life specifics relating to the 4th District. The fact is that Katcho was instrumental in obtaining the 1.8% growth cap for Nipomo. This is controlled growth. It doesn't get more controlled than that. Ms. Wirsing's ramblings about out of control growth are sheer fantasy. How can we have affordable housing without growth? It's impossible of course.
Ms. Wirsing's claims that the 4th District has a extreme water shortage is not based in fact. If it were, then Ms. Wirsing as a sitting NCSD Director would have the ability to introduce at any time a resolution under Water Code section 350 declaring a building moratorium because of a lack of water. My question to Ms. Wirsing, is that if Nipomo and the 4th District is in such a dire water shortage, why has she not introduced such a resolution to the NCSD board? She is derelict in her duty as an NCSD Director if we are in such a water shortage, and she does nothing about it. The most certain way to control growth the way Ms. Wirsing advocates is for her to introduce a resolution under section 350 and bring Nipomo's building to a complete halt. The reason she does not do this, is that there is not the severe crisis she claims.
Ms. Wirsing lambasts developers. This does nothing to help the situation. The implication of her comments is that she should like to control and determine how much profit developers can make, or dictate the types of housing they may build. Such a policy would be a disaster.
Likewise Mr. McSweeney offers no real solution or original thinking here. The claim that you can't really discuss this issue unless you define affordable housing is without merit. Discussing affordable housing and Cypress Ridge, where he lives in the same breath, is a joke, and hardly constructive. He is against all dense developments. Well, what does he suggest, that we change the zoning of all land categories that currently support those developments to rural residential, or some other zoning more in tune with his liking? In my view neither of Katcho's opposition have any credibility on this issue based on their responses in this forum.
Question 8: Where is the drainage on local streets, and is the county responsible?
Candidate Achadjian: If it is county road related, then the county is responsible. Because of Nipomo's flooding, the underground drainage there is not functioning. Therefore, out of the recent $3 million allocated from the County's general fund for drainage issues, $1.8 million will go to Nipomo. Oceano also has some drainage issues, some of which is the subject of a lawsuit. Numerous jurisdictions are involved in the drainage issues. This includes Cal Trans, the railroad and the county. It is also all related to money issues, such as where does the money come from to repair these problems. Where there is money, and if the county is responsible, they have acted where they can, and done the best they can. The more houses Arroyo Grande an Grover Beach build, the more it also impacts drainage.
Candidate Wirsing: This is mostly plain old ordinary neglect. This has been going on for years and years. She doesn't know why it is not addressed. No one seems to help, even though people are begging for help. The people pay taxes. We have all kinds of issues, drainage, clogged creeks, streets on hills without drainage. Children walk down the streets in the floods when it rains. We have serious issues in the 4th District. She doesn't understand why they haven't been addressed. When she is the supervisor they will be addressed.
Candidate McSweeney: He is not as educated as his opponents are. The county is responsible, and they should do something. We need to figure out where the money will come from, and go do something. Why something hasn't been done yet is a good question and should be investigated. But, both his opponents have a wider knowledge base than he does on this issue.
My Analysis: This is basically a rehash of Question 5 above. I don't have any additional analysis, other than Ms. Wirsing's response is the same, neglect. Mr. McSweeney's admission that he doesn't know the issue is troubling. We shouldn't have to hire a supervisor who needs on the job training.
Question 9: What are the drug issues in our towns? School security at our schools has been cut, how will you help our teens as our supervisor?
Candidate McSweeney: The drug issue grows each year. He grew up in an area where there was no school security. Times have changed. We need to make certain our children are safe. Whatever it takes to do that to give them a safe environment we need to do. We need proper security on campus, and be able to fund that. He doesn't have a quick answer to funding, and doesn't think anyone does. It must go through the political system. We need to have drug awareness programs. When he grew up he didn't have these problems. We need a good solid plan on how to do this and where the money comes from.
Candiate Wirsing: 100 years ago she wanted to be a police officer. Her goal was to stop children from taking drugs. Now drugs are full blown and everywhere. We need to always fight this. We need to address the security guard issue in the schools. They got rid of lockers. Now children have to wear backpacks, and children will grow up with bad posture which worries her. We have a drug problem that is a cancer. When she was older there were guards at every door way at the school she went to. As a supervisor she would like to go speak with the kids in the schools and make an impression on them that this is a dead end road. There is more to life than drugs. She would tell the kids to go hiking or go play. Don't stay home. Kids are trapped these days. Parents have to work. There is so much peer pressure.
Candidate Achadjian: Property taxes don't leave town. 64% of property taxes go to schools, 24 % go to cities and CSD's, with the rest to the county. The county is restricted on how they can spend the rest, i.e., law enforcement, health issues, etc. The county has no jurisdiction to tell the school district how to run their business. They are a state agency and are above the county. What can we do? Privately we can raise money and donate it, which he has done through local Rotary or Mens club. They raise the money and donate it to help programs to teach children to avoid drugs. He is also active in the Oceano Boys and Girls Club, and donated money to this club. It helps after school when children have no where else to go. He has a record of which he is proud, and upon which he stands.
My Analysis: Interesting question; but, as Katcho points out there is little a county supervisor can really do in terms of drugs in schools, or security. The school districts are independent agencies run by the state. The private donations and efforts of which Katcho speaks are important. Platitudes about telling children to go play or go hiking don't really seem to offer much. The state should offer and provide more money to local districts to beef up security where needed. The county should do what it can; but, it is limited in its direct influence over local school districts.
Question 10: What are your thoughts on the Oceano Specific Plan, and do you feel changes need to be made at this time?
Candidate Wirsing: She is not as well versed on this as she would like to be. But, she knows a little bit. One issue is the curbs and sidewalks. The specific plan states if you do a 20% remodel you are required to put in a sidewalk and curbs around the home. The county will do the work; however, it will cost the homeowner $7,500. These are poor folks of moderate or fixed income. Now they are discourages from adding to their homes. She believes this is disparity and unfair. For the rest of the specific plan she will have to read it and get back to us. These people pay taxes. They are in dire need of help. This will be one of her folders and is on her list.
Candidate Achadjian: There was an opportunity about four years ago for him to reach out to the federal government for $80,000 in money to fund a study for a qualifying community. Oceano qualified because of farm workers. There were several town hall meetings to create the specific plan. They took the draft to the community which approved the specific plan, as did the County Board of Supervisors. Some of the Oceano CSD came to him and said they don't want to be treated like third class citizens. They wanted sidewalks like everyone else. So, they included that provision in the specific plan. If you only do repairs in your kitchen, that is not a remodel. If you remodel 20% or more of the value of your home, then you also need to remodel your neighborhood in front of your house, based on what the community has requested. Folks who remodel greater than 20% the value of their home will have enough money to spend on the required curbs, sidewalks and gutters.
Candidate McSweeney: Like Ms. Wirsing he is not up to speed on the Oceano Specific Plan. He spoke with someone a week ago last week about three hours regarding Oceano issues. The community is lower income. He reviewed a plan on housing which was dense housing. There wasn't any open space for the housing. If you tore down the single family residences then you could build high density housing. You could have a developer come in, make a lot of money and develop the place to look like downtown L.A. if you want. He envisions Oceano re-developing over the next 15 years; but, he does not agree the residents should be forced to pay for the curbs and gutters if they remodel.
My Analysis: Ms. Wirsing and Mr. McSweeney by their own admission are out of their depth on this issue. They haven't put in the time necessary to learn the issues facing Oceano, a large chunk of the 4th District. They have put in the time to read the Oceano Specific Plan. They are ill equipped to discuss these issues in any detail. Katcho was not only able to discuss the Oceano Specific Plan, he was able to provide a fascinating history of how it came about, and how the community gave the county input on how they wanted Oceano to develop. Finally, why do we want to hire a supervisor who needs considerable on the job training, as would Ms. Wirsing and Mr. McSweeney?
Question 11: Would you favor a state investigation of the Oceano Community Center Corporation financial records?
Candidate Achadjian: A private non profit corporation is just that, private. If the people who have contracts with them, don't have a problem, then it's none of the supervisors' business to get into their business. They need a recreation center for the children to play and have supervised activities. In the past the county brought in $2 million to help build the center. The community has taken charge of this activity. They have community support. The Oceano CSD is directly impacted by this center. If the local CSD is satisfied, the Board of Supervisors should not be concerned.
Candidate McSweeney: This issue was just presented to him about a week ago. Again, he is not up to speed on this issue; however, since the county apparently put in $2 million he wants an accounting of the money. There used to be a park where the center is located. Now there is no park. There is a big building with little or no parking. He believes there needs to be a full audit, if that is what the people want.
Candidate Wirsing: This is a very serious issue. The lot the building sits on, once had a park. Now there is no park. There are very few parking spaces. You have to join a group. You have to pay to play. She doesn't understand why the county gave a private corporation $2 million of park money that could have been spent for parks. She thinks this is somehow special interest. If we don’t get an audit, then we should go to the District Attorney.
My Analysis: I agree that the most local of agencies that is impacted, the Oceano CSD should be the lead agency. If there are issues of impropriety, they would be the first to know. The people of Oceano apparently want this much needed community center, or the county would not have given them the money they did. Let the most local of governmental units, in this case the Oceano CSD take any action they feel appropriate. If they want a county or state investigation, then let them call for it.
Question 12: When did you first start attending the Board of Supervisor's meetings?
Candidate McSweeney: The first meeting he attended was 2/7/06. He may have been apathetic in the past. There have been one or two elections in the past that he missed because he was traveling. He has a great deal of civic duty inside him wanting to come out. He is a team builder. He is running because no one was willing at the time to step up and throw their hat in. He doesn't have the knowledge base of everything that goes on in county government. He does have a "skill set." You don't have to have the knowledge to make things work. He is running to help out the community. He doesn't like what he is seeing. A lot of people don't like what they are seeing; but, no one was willing to put their name in.
Candidate Wirsing: She first attended seven years ago when there were 700 rabbits in her back yard. The BOS meetings are one of her favorite programs. She watches it on TV. It is very educational. It is interesting to see the votes of 3 to 2. She is an elected director on the NCSD. She is aware how government agencies are run. She knows they make policy. She knows how to read ordinances and resolutions. She knows how they are created. Katcho didn't know at one time. Let's all be fair. We know what we know. She is qualified to be your supervisor. We need to have more what the voters want. She wants to watch the board of supervisors sitting in the chair.
Candidate Achadjian: He has 100% attendance at all supervisors' meetings since he was first elected. He has no conflicts of interest on any 4th District issues or votes. When he first decided to run it took him two years of campaigning. Prior to that he was very active in the community, serving on numerous non profit organizations, serving in numerous leadership roles. He attended BOS meetings for two years and learned how the process worked, and put his pulse on the community. This is a real commitment to serve on the board. It is not a walk in the park. He has delivered on that commitment 100%.
My Analysis: Compared with Katcho's pre supervisor preparation, both Mr. McSweeny and Ms. Wirsing's preparation is quite weak. Mr. McSweeney's is the weakest, as he has been here the least amount of time, and by his own admission prior to this election he has been somewhat apathetic.
Question 13: Do you think the Oceano Community Airport property could be put to better use rather than as an airport.
Candidate Wirsing: This is an issue about which she only knows a little bit about. She does know that Oceano has an airport. She believes Katcho has commissioned an advisory group of six pilots who have ideas to make the airport a very active airport. This will impact the area. This will change many lifestyles dramatically. We need to discuss the needs and concerns of the voters. We should keep the airport low key. Perhaps the airport should be removed and the property used for something else. This is not a major metropolitan area. This is a question she will ask as supervisor.
Candidate McSweeney: This is also an issue about which he is not up to speed. He is somewhat familiar with the airport and what goes on down there. He doesn't think the airport should actually grow. He wants to do more research on this. He is not educated on this at all. This is very close to residential areas. He can't see expanding the airport because of noise pollution. He wants to research this more, and talk to the people in the community and those who own the airport. He is not up to speed on this.
Candidate Achadjian: This is a recreational airport. Many communities would love to have one in their back yard. Its future will be decided by the people in the community. Without San Luis Obispo's good airport the Oceano Airport would not survive. The local Oceano Improvement Association feels the Oceano Airport is an asset for Oceano, as they focus on how to improve the economy. As the county works with the local community in the future to bring local business and hotels to come to town, the airport would be a great way to travel. He is unaware of any commission put together as alleged by Ms. Wirsing. The FAA is in charge of the Airport, not him. The airport land use commission makes land use decisions. Two supervisors may overrule them; however, if it is a pure land use decision, it takes 4/5 of the supervisors to overrule them. The board will have something to say about land use at the airport as well as the FAA. The Board of Supervisors supported one of the hotels in the takeoff path, because the local community supported it, and because it supported the local economy. The land use commission voted against it; however, it was appealed, to the Coastal Commission which voted the same way the BOS voted.
My Analysis: Yet another issue demonstrating the lack of knowledge by the two challengers on 4th District issues outside of growth and water that affect the south county. Katcho's response was clear and illuminating. I had no idea how the local Oceano airport functioned, or how its local community supported it. Again, this is not a time to hire a supervisor who will need on the job training as would Ms. Wirsing and Mr. McSweeny.
Question 14: Do you favor banning off road vehicles from the Oceano Dunes?
Note, this is the same question asked at the previous forum. The candidates essentailly responded the same way, and my analysis the same.
Question 15: To what philanthropic or charitable organizations do you belong–and are you on the board. To what civil organizations do you belong or volunteer? In your past work history what skills have you acquired that helps you do a supervisor's job?
Candidate McSweeney: When he moved to the Central Coast he gave up a very good job to come here as a sales representative. Unfortunately his job takes up a great deal of his time, up to 12 hours a day. He travels a great deal. He just doesn't have time to volunteer here. Down in Southern California he had been a member of the Kawinis Club. In High School he was president of the Key Club for three years. Currently he is not involved in anything other than his job. But, this shouldn't hurt him as far of his qualifications. He has been involved in large corporations, and running companies making management decisions and planning. He brings a needed skills set to the BOS. You can't just step up to the plate being a janitor, saying you have a good heart and you want to help the people, try to be a supervisor and try to run something. There are lots of things involved.
Candidate Wirsing: First she likes people. She works, and is retiring 6//18/06. Her business background and personality would be a wonderful asset to the community and county. She would love to be involved and help people who need help. She was an ambassador with the Nipomo Chamber of Commerce, and she fit right in. She was on the board a couple of years of the Nipomo Chamber. She was also involved as secretary with the Nipomo Salvation of Army. She saw people in dire need. She would ring the bell, and found it rewarding. In Grover Beach at her business she sees the mentally ill and the homeless who are on the increase. She would be a great asset as a supervisor.
Candidate Achadjian: He wishes he would have brought a list of his involvement and why it qualifies him to serve as supervisor. As a small business owner his motto is service without self. He maintains this philosophy as a supervisor. There are many opportunities to be involved. He has been involved with the Latino outreach. He attends their leadership classes as a guest speaker. For 17 years he has been on the board of the Special Olympics. He has also served as their president. He is also involved with the Children's Health Initiative to help uninsured children. He was the charter president of Children's Partnership, helping provide free services of uninsured children needing dental and health care services. He is involved with the Children's Leadership, helping educate parents during pregnancy helping them stay off drugs and alcohol. He has been a member of the Boys and Girls Club in Oceano as well.
My Analysis: These responses were highly enlightening. Mr. McSweeney is too busy to volunteer in the community in which he has lived for the past five and one half years; but, he isn't too busy to run for the Board of Supervisors. Will he step down from his current job as a sales representative if he wins election? Ms. Wirsing claimed that she loves people, loves to help them and fits right in. My observation of Ms. Wirsing is that she does anything but fit in. In her 6 years of service as an elected director of the NCSD she has yet to be elected by her fellow directors to serve as president of that board. The directors themselves elect their own president. Yet, Ms. Wirsing has never served. This speaks volumes to me of the esteem in which she is held in her currently elected position.
Ms. Wirsing also invoked the name of Nipomo's Chamber of Commerce as an organization in which she has served. In the past Ms. Wirsing may have been involved with the chamber; however, she is not currently a member, and I do not believe she has been for over the past six years. Sometime in 2000, Ms. Wirsing even sued the Nipomo Chamber of Commerce in a lawsuit that was thrown out of court because it was without any merit. Since that time, to my knowledge, Ms. Wirsing has had absolutely nothing to do with the Nipomo Chamber of Commerce.
Katcho's list of community involvement is well known and speaks for itself.
Candidate Achadjian: Thanks all for attending. His record speaks for itself. He has worked hard for us, listened to us, and delivered for us. He has 100% record of attendance at supervisor meetings. The Tribune has dubbed him a consensus builder, a title of which he is proud. When there is a need, local businesses and organizations come to him. When French Hospital closed its doors for pediatric dental surgeries, they called on Katcho. As a result four other hospitals opened their doors. If you want someone who has built bridges, and who has built working relationships, Katcho is the candidate. On June 6, please vote for him.
Candidate McSweeney: Why vote for him? Do you like what you see in your community? He doesn't want to talk about the small issues. Let's talk about the three major issues: Out of control housings, infrastructure, and water. This affects the entire county. He brings a certain skill set to the board. He admits he needs to be brought up to speed; but, thinks this doesn't mean he can't do the job. Look at Arnold Schwarzenegger. He brought no political experience to the office. He works for the people and keeps them informed. He builds teams. He has a skill set to run the state. Do you like what you see? If you don't like what you see we need to make a change. If you do like what you see, there is no reason to make a change. The people he speaks to wants to make a change, as they don't like what they see. He has the skill set to bring a framework together of what the people want.
Candidate Wirsing: She wouldn't be here if she didn't think she could do a better job. She has to talk about the incumbent's record. She showed some paperwork showing development in Nipomo. Even though we are near critical water levels, Katcho says this is the NCSD's problem–even though it is mesa wide. Even Oceano gets 300 acre feet of water per year from the aquifer. If we get seawater intrusion then we are out. We need to worry about the current development requiring NCSD rate payers to cut back 15%. Do you want to cut back 15% on your water usage? This is unfair. Katcho said that he has adopted Nipomo beyond belief. She will not adopt any community. She thought that was amazing to hear. She will not adopt any community; but, will serve with dignity. You will be proud to live in the 4th District and the entire community.
Candidate Achadjian: Overall, I believe this forum clearly demonstrated why Katcho deserves re-election as the 4th District Supervisor. The Tribune, endorsed Katcho for re-election, and you can read that endorsement here and here. I can't say it any better than the Tribune; however, I would observe that this particular format for this forum highlighted, at least for me, the strengths Katcho does and will bring to this office. It also highlighted the weaknesses of Mr. McSweeny and Ms. Wirsing. This forum did not provide the candidates' with the questions in advance. They were not able to research pre-selected issues and write out their responses ahead of time. This forum allowed the attending public to write out questions on the spot and have the moderators read the questions directly to each candidate, allowing the public to see how they respond without the benefit of weeks of preparation.
Thanks to the Nipomo Chamber, the Arroyo Grande Chamber and the Oceano Improvement Association for sponsoring and the League of Women Voters for moderating. Thanks to the candidates for participating and running. It was well done, and accomplished its goal of informing those of the public who bothered to show up. If there was one criticism I had, it is of the general public. This forum advertised by both chambers, as well as the press. It was not as well attended as it could and should have been. The American public has long grown apathetic with the political process. This is a shame. I hope many will vote in this election; but, I am not certain that will actually happen. We the public need to do our part to make an informed democracy work. The candidates here did their part. Now we need to do ours.
Candidate McSweeney: I believe, as I said after the last forum, that Mr. McSweeney needs further seasoning as a candidate for this office. I agree with the Tribune's assessment of Mr. McSweeny's candidacy, which you can read here and here. This forum highlighted several areas where Mr. McSweeney is just not up to speed on the issues being discussed. He remains, by his own admission if not a single issue candidate, a very limited issue candidate: Growth/Water. I personally disagree with this analysis and interpretation of those limited issues, and believes he needs more education on all the issues facing the entire 4th District.
Candidate Wirsing: Ms. Wirsing is the least qualified of these candidates for this office, for a myriad of reasons. I also agree with the Tribune's assessment of Ms. Wirsing's candidacy, which you can read here, and here. This forum really highlighted how unprepared Ms. Wirsing is to assume this office. She, like Mr. McSweeney is not educated on all the issues a supervisor would face in this district. We do not need or want a supervisor who needs on the job training. We want one who is hard working, and already up to speed. That candidate is Katcho, our incumbent. Aside from the fact that Ms. Wirsing is ill prepared to serve in this position, as the Tribune noted in a weekend story about Ms. Wirsing, she has had serious ethical lapses in her personal life with the preparation of false tax returns, while working for H & R Block. This is a serious lapse of judgment that disqualifies Ms. Wirsing from the office of supervisor I endorse and support Katcho for re-election and urge you to vote for him on June 6, 2006.