Arnold says Gibson misleading lawmakers
June 10, 2014
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
Amendments to legislation aiding formation of a water district to manage the Paso Robles aquifer are just fine, according to county supervisors’ chairman Bruce Gibson, asserting he speaks for the entire board.
Not so, said Fifth District Supervisor Debbie Arnold Tuesday, who will ask her fellow board members to discuss the issue and to vote openly on it.
Arnold said Gibson sent “a misleading letter” to Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo), whose AB 2453 would create a so-called “hybrid” district with the power to tax, regulate, and enforce water usage within a North County area with yet-undetermined boundaries.
Achadjian, in a June 4 letter to Gibson, asked that the draft amendments to his bill be placed on the June 17 supervisors’ agenda “for discussion and a public comment period.” One of the suggested amendments would allow renters within the new district to hold positions on its governing body.
The assemblyman said that “without approval of the amendments from the Board of Supervisors and input from the public, I would not feel comfortable moving forward with AB 2453 until those discussions are able to occur.”
Gibson responded by telling Achadjian that “previous public input received… are sufficient for (the board) to support (the bill) as amended.”
Arnold angrily derided Gibson’s unilateral move as “bullying.”
“When the chairman of the board sends a misleading letter insinuating that there has been lots of public comment on this matter, it sends the wrong message to Sacramento about the creation of this district in general,” Arnold said. “There are thousands of landowners in the basin opposed to the creation of the district.
“So I’m still focusing on the issue of the formation of the district itself, because as it stands just 30 landowners can prevail over the potential opposition of 4,900 landowners. The way things are headed, the board will be made up of people who want some sort of personal benefit.”
Gibson cited the “agreement” of two water groups, PRAAGS and PRO Water Equity, which have a combined total membership of about a dozen people, as his primary reason for supporting the water district plan.
After receiving Gibson’s claim that the board and the public support the proposed amendments to the bill, Achadjian elected to move forward.
“Because the board has determined that the proposed amendments are within the scope of the discussions held at the board hearings in February, I will move forward with the amendments,” Achadjian wrote to Gibson on Tuesday.
Arnold said Gibson’s actions have “set a bad precedent of allowing the chair to support legislation under the umbrella of a legislative platform and without a new hearing process. I also object to the way the letter misleads legislators into believing that public comment in the past has supported the district when in fact it has been the opposite.”
The bill will be heard in Sacramento in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee June 18.
UPDATED June 11, 10:32 a.m.– Supervisor Debbie Arnold succeeded today in placing a discussion of proposed amendments to AB 2453 on the June 17 supervisors’ agenda. The board voted unanimously to support Arnold’s motion after a hesitant Frank Mecham endorsed it. Board Chair Bruce Gibson argued against the motion for nearly 40 minutes.