Gibson attempted to ax the public from water debate

February 19, 2015
Supervisor Bruce Gibson Photo by Daniel Blackburn

Supervisor Bruce Gibson
Photo by Daniel Blackburn

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson attempted to push forward a vote on a hotly contested water use ordinance during a Feb. 17 poorly attended board of supervisors hearing on planning department priorities.

Throughout this month, the board has wavered back and forth on whether or not to extend a temporary ordinance that restricts agricultural and residential development in North County in order to preserve water in the Paso Robles groundwater basin. A hearing on the proposed ordinance extension is scheduled for next week’s board meeting, head county planner Jim Bergman said Tuesday.

But, on Feb. 17, Gibson motioned to have the board direct county planning staff to start crafting an extension of the ordinance. Gibson called for the vote on the Paso Robles basin ordinance during a hearing titled, “Report on Department of Planning and Building priorities.”

He said the motion was justified and the vote on the ordinance should not come as a surprise to the public. But, the board voted down Gibson’s motion on a 3-2 vote, doing so shortly after Supervisor Debbie Arnold accused him of using a backdoor tactic to avoid public scrutiny.

“The public has not been noticed that we are having this discussion,” Arnold said. “For us to do it today, I think would be a complete disservice to the public.”

Supervisor Frank Mecham currently holds the swing vote on the ordinance since he has voted this month both in favor of and against some type of ordinance extension. Mecham agreed with Arnold on Tuesday, saying that it did not make sense to vote on the issue when it was scheduled to come before the board at a different time.

“I don’t know why we need a motion to do this when we are going to be hearing it anyway in a week,” Mecham said.

Gibson said the benefit of voting Tuesday, as opposed to waiting a week, was that it would give planning staff an additional seven days to get to work. Crafting the ordinance extension is large task that involves preparing an environmental impact report, Gibson said.

He also said that the meeting was properly noticed for a vote on the Paso Robles basin ordinance.

“The public knew we were talking about building and planning priorities here,” Gibson said. “That was as plainly noticed as possible.”

A county staff report on Tuesday’s hearing described it as an opportunity for the board to make any desired changes to county planning priorities. A top county planning priority is implementing the groundwater basin ordinance, Gibson said.

Just last month, though, the board violated the Ralph M. Brown Act, California’s open meeting law, when Gibson did not let the public comment on the realignment of board leadership positions. That meeting, too, was not properly noticed.

Gibson admitted making the Brown Act violation a week later, saying it was a mistake. Many members of the public, though, suggested that it was a deliberate effort to place his ally Supervisor Adam Hill in a leadership position.

Hill cast the only other vote in favor of Gibson’s motion on Tuesday. He, like Gibson, said a crisis exists in the Paso Robles basin and that the county is risking a new wave of development and water extraction in the area if the ordinance is not extended.

The ordinance is currently set to expire in August. As it exists now, it prohibits residential or agricultural development in the basin unless developers or ranchers create conservation projects that preserve an equal amount of water elsewhere in the area.

Arnold, who opposes the ordinance, said the county is choosing winners and losers by keeping it in place. She said that property owners in the basin who cannot afford the conservation projects will not be able to use their property whether or not they have water on it.

Simultaneously, the ordinance appears to be driving up the price of land in the area, especially property with irrigation. Those landowners stand to gain as they will be able to sell their allotment of water to others above the basin, Arnold said.

Supervisor Lynn Compton also opposes the ordinance. She said Tuesday that the regulation takes property rights away from landowners, some of whom live in areas that are not as impacted by water shortage issues.

Mecham indicated last week that he would favor some kind of temporary extension of the ordinance. He said he would not support making the ordinance permanent, but Mecham has often voted with Gibson and Hill on the issue.

The board is slated to discuss the issue at its upcoming Tuesday meeting.


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37 Comments

  1. MBwaiter says:

    Can someone please tell me where County Counsel is during all of these Brown Act Violations? Why doesn’t the County Attorney step in at the meeting and tell Gibson that he can’t violate the law? County Counsel is not during their job and is as much at fault as Gibson.

    (18) 28 Total Votes - 23 up - 5 down
    • Mariposa says:

      They are all COUNTY personnel–clearly cut from the same cloth!

      (8) 20 Total Votes - 14 up - 6 down
  2. Jorge Estrada says:

    One thing per hard data, Santa Margarita has plenty of water. Yesterday the county managment must have used that reason to drop the Water Works #6 entitlement to 200 Acre-Feet of the Salinas Reservior, a benifit for the Town of Santa Margarita. Today’s, county management is milking grant money for an emergency conection, as they say for Santa Margarita, but the reality is our 600,000 gallon storage tank will be a benifit for Atascadero Mutual which has no official agreement to serve Santa Margarita.

    Santa Margarita has highority, priority and is where the water source is. We have affordable water and this town provides a valuable quality of life for those who live here. Please do not waste tax dollars debating over Santa Margarita water, just drill us another well and sell that expensive dry lake emergency water to the big city suckers.

    (1) 13 Total Votes - 7 up - 6 down
    • easymoney says:

      Spot on Jorge,
      Also, while on the topic of water and usurping public rights, one only has to look at who reviews all ag and building projects, who approves or denies those projects, who field inspects those projects, who over sees and manages all public services in the unincorporated areas in the county, who makes “staff recommendations” to the BOS before they make their final decisions, who sets all fees in the county, who spends those fees? SLO county staff, thats who…
      Now, correct the five members of the BOS are the most powerful entity in county and do hold final word on most topics affecting the public and public services, yet they will follow most “staff recommendations” AFTER they hear from the public.

      (-2) 8 Total Votes - 3 up - 5 down
  3. centralcoastscott says:

    Bruce Gibson is a dangerous man.

    Scott

    (17) 35 Total Votes - 26 up - 9 down
    • justbeware says:

      What’s scary is that people continue to vote for him.

      (22) 36 Total Votes - 29 up - 7 down
      • Myself says:

        It is and for the life of me I don’t understand why,we could have put Muril Clift in last year and tried him, at least he doesn’t go about badgering the public like this one does.

        (5) 11 Total Votes - 8 up - 3 down
        • taxpayer says:

          The reason for Muril Clift’s campaign loss was that he didn’t run a credible campaign. He didn’t raise enough money, he didn’t understand that to beat an incumbent you have to really go out and knock on doors, call people and go to every event in the district. He’s a nice man but a terrible campaigner who seemed to have no vision or plan to defeat the incumbent. It’s no cakewalk to beat any incumbent, no matter how corrupt and sinister they may be. Basically, Muril didn’t have the name recognition and ran a terrible campaign. He’s a nice guy but if you’re not willing to fight for the office then you’re not going to win.

          (10) 10 Total Votes - 10 up - 0 down
  4. pasodowny says:

    Like I said before Bruce, after your letter of “apology” regarding Adam Hill, we all know your tricks now, we all know you are insincere and not to be trusted (some know that much more painfully than others). Your tricks have been learned, and now, thankfully, it is you who is being played, rather than the people of SLO County.

    (11) 25 Total Votes - 18 up - 7 down
  5. racket says:

    Disappointed, but not surprised.

    (11) 21 Total Votes - 16 up - 5 down
  6. R.Hodin says:

    To Lynn Compton: Your property rights end at my kitchen faucet. If your reticence to enact strong controls over a resource held in common in a timely manner results in further groundwater depletion then your first term of county leadership has arrived stillborn. Leadership takes courage. Hiding behind a blanket charge of property rights protection is cowardice. Water, like air, and sun, is commonly-held resource.

    (-4) 54 Total Votes - 25 up - 29 down
    • racket says:

      Hodin: Are you concerned with the property rights of others that you are usurping so you can continue to use their water as it flows to your kitchen sink? Or is your right to kitchen water above the rights of anyone upstream from you?

      (1) 33 Total Votes - 17 up - 16 down
    • Dave says:

      Russ Hodin: Wouldn’t you be more comfortable back with your hater pals at CC Fraud???

      (3) 39 Total Votes - 21 up - 18 down
      • Slowerfaster says:

        What does a comment like that have to do with the topic ?

        Pathetic.

        (-7) 29 Total Votes - 11 up - 18 down
        • justbeware says:

          It’s a question, not a comment.

          (4) 22 Total Votes - 13 up - 9 down
    • 3 putt says:

      Spot on R.Hodin !

      “Property rights” for Compton has become her mantra which really means “I don’t know what to do except support my money people”

      Property rights apply to all–including those “smaller” properties that can get run over by big money. The “Property Rights Mantra” should not mean if you have property you can do anything you please. IT’S A BALANCING ACT!.

      Compton’s neighborhood has numerous (dozens) of dry wells or wells running dry, and yet she only knows of “anecdotal” stories of water problems.

      (-1) 39 Total Votes - 19 up - 20 down
    • Slowerfaster says:

      It’s even more than that, Russ.
      Compton uses code words to distract from her autocratic agenda. Make no mistake, with this type of egotistical self-entitlement, if they could privatize and monopolize air and sunlight, they would do that, too.

      Ironically, Compton is a ‘supervisor’, and a synonym for regulation is supervision.
      I guess we’ll see how well UNsupervising works.

      (-1) 25 Total Votes - 12 up - 13 down
      • NorCoMod says:

        Code words as a distraction from her autocratic agenda? Really?
        Oh Boy, here goes another conspiracy theorist. And usually from a conspiratorial person.

        (-1) 21 Total Votes - 10 up - 11 down
        • 3 putt says:

          Code words– as in “Property Rights”. Her agenda is to snuggle up to big money, and “Property Rights” is her canned answer to get there.

          (1) 21 Total Votes - 11 up - 10 down
    • racket says:

      R Hodin:

      I disagree with your view. But I am not trying to thwart your ability to express it. Your supervisor, Bruce-the-Conniver, attempted to thwart public input. And that’s what this CCN article is about.

      (11) 21 Total Votes - 16 up - 5 down

Comments are closed.