It’s time for a new generation of leaders. The Tribune endorses Jimmy Paulding for county supervisor.
Four years ago, Republican Supervisor Lynn Compton was an inexperienced politician not well known outside her home base of Nipomo. Nonetheless, she defeated Caren Ray, a Democrat who had been appointed to the board by Gov. Jerry Brown.
This time, it’s Compton, 55, who has the experience while her challenger, 32-year-old Jimmy Paulding, is the newcomer to South County politics, though he has worked on major public infrastructure projects and, like Compton, has a law degree.
Still, Paulding faces an uphill climb. He’s a Democrat running in a district that typically elects conservatives to the board, including one, Katcho Achadjian, who went on to the state Assembly. A moderate Republican, Achadjian was often the swing vote on the Board of Supervisors, earning himself the nickname “man in the middle.”
There is no longer a man – or woman – in the middle on the Board of Supervisors, and the county is worse for it.
We now have a Board of Supervisors that, on most major issues, is hopelessly split along party lines. Collegiality has disappeared, and that’s rubbed off on many constituents who, like the supervisors, have become extremely polarized to the point of enmity.
We need someone with a willingness to learn, to listen with an open mind, and to compromise. We also need someone who is concerned about all constituents, no matter their political persuasion. And it would help to have someone who can win — or lose — on an issue gracefully, and without holding a grudge.
We believe Paulding fits that bill better than Compton.
On some issues, Compton has been very strong. She was a bulldog, for example, in getting park funds for Nipomo. She stepped on some toes in the process, but she got the job done.
Compton, however, is out of touch when it comes to addressing some of the biggest challenges affecting county residents — such as a the lack of affordable housing and the poor air quality on the Nipomo Mesa. Those are issues Paulding has taken to heart and, we believe, would approach with the dedication, innovation and compassion they deserve.
He also promises to bring a nonpartisan approach to the office; if he keeps his word — and if he’s elected, voters should hold him to it — that would be a refreshing and much-needed change.
We also believe it’s time to start turning the reins of government over to a new generation of office holders.
Paulding could speak for an under-represented demographic on the board, and bring a fresh perspective to issues that are going to be increasingly important in the future, such as energy, transportation and, especially, housing.
Compton and other conservative supervisors have talked housing strategies, but they’ve failed to deliver meaningful results, and they’ve moved at a stunningly sluggish pace.
One example: In November 2013 (before Compton was on the board) the county formed a committee to develop a policy to encourage construction of workforce housing by offering incentives. An ordinance went to the board in November of 2016 – three years later — and as of today, not a single developer has taken advantage of those incentives.
Instead, the vast majority of homes in the county are still being built for buyers with above-moderate incomes: Over the past four years, 1,244 permits were issued for above-moderate-income homes; 142 in the moderate category; and only 118 in the low- and very-low categories.
The county needs to be much more aggressive in exploring all possible ways to increase the supply of apartments, condos and small, modest homes. Look at the city of San Luis Obispo: It’s considering tiny homes, higher densities and taller buildings. Yes, SLO residents are complaining, and it’s unlikely that all those options will be embraced. But start somewhere.
Among the other areas of concern:
Compton says improving county roads is one of her top priorities — according to her mailer, she voted to bump up the road budget by $9.5 million. As a result, the condition of county roads has markedly improved. That’s good, but to maintain that, a one-time infusion of $9.5 million won’t be nearly enough. The new state gas tax is an additional source of revenue, but those funds are in jeopardy; a measure seeking to repeal the SB 1 tax is expected to be on the November ballot.
We believe local elected officials should not only support SB 1 — and point out how it’s benefiting their communities — they should also be prepared to put another local transportation sales tax on the ballot, in the event that SB 1 is repealed.
Paulding supports SB 1, while Compton, an avid anti-taxer, does not.
“I just don’t fundamentally believe that on top of all the other taxes we have to put another tax on top of us for the roads,” she said at a recent candidates forum.
Compton also believes Sacramento’s spending problem is to blame for the lack of road revenue. That may be, but let’s be realistic. San Luis Obispo County has a pothole problem, and wringing our hands about the spendthrifts in Sacramento isn’t going to fix that.
Air quality on the Nipomo Mesa
State Parks has been dragging its feet about addressing the problem; it took a special Air Pollution Control District hearing board to finally get the state to commit to reducing dust emissions by 50 percent over the next five years.
That should have been one of Compton’s priorities. If she had approached State Parks with the same zeal she exhibited when she believed her constituents were being cheated out of park fees, Mesa residents might already be enjoying cleaner air.
Paulding advocates taking a hardline approach with State Parks, that includes using the 550-acre tract of county-owned land within the park as leverage, should the state fail to live up to its commitment to reduce dust pollution.
Bottom line: Lynn Compton has been playing to her conservative base, to the detriment of many of her constituents — even when it comes to something as important as clean air.
And while Compton and her supporters criticize Paulding as being inexperienced — Compton referred to him as a “kid” at one point — she, too, was inexperienced when she ran for office four years ago.
We’re concerned, too, that Compton and her conservative colleagues have failed to move the needle enough on issues such as housing, clean energy and homeless services (South County still doesn’t have a permanent homeless shelter), and while it’s committed to fiscal prudence, the county is facing a deficit.
We believe Paulding deserves an opportunity to help turn things around; to fulfill his promise to be fair and nonpartisan in his decision-making; and to represent the interests of the “under 40s” who deserve to be heard.
The Tribune endorses Jimmy Paulding for the Board of Supervisors.