Dan Carpenter’s election story
October 25, 2016
Special to CCN by Katelyn Piziali
If you ask San Luis Obispo City Council member Dan Carpenter, being a nice guy should mean finishing first.
The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors has a history of unruliness during its public meetings, where Carpenter hopes to win the District 3 seat. Carpenter says the source of this incivility is his opponent, incumbent District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill.
“He is antagonistic, he is misogynistic to the women, he is disparaging to the speakers, and he cuts them off,” Carpenter said. “That level of incivility I think is all nurtured by him and so me replacing him would be the answer.”
Aside from how the Board of Supervisors works together, both Carpenter and Hill point to four pressing issues for the county: Water, traffic, Phillips 66 and the closing of Diablo Canyon.
Water is the most urgent topic at hand, Carpenter said.
“If you don’t have water, all the other issues are a moot point to me,” Carpenter said. “You can talk about open space, you can talk about transportation infrastructure, you can talk about all kinds of fun things we do here, but if we don’t have water, we can’t sustain life in our community.”
Carpenter’s plan to cope with continuing drought is to build surface water storage, such as dams and reservoirs to collect rainfall and upgrading the San Luis Obispo County wastewater treatment plant, he said. The wastewater treatment plant treats sewage and rainwater runoff using a three-step process. This involves filtering out solids and treating it with chemicals before releasing it into the creeks that lead out to the Pacific Ocean.
The recycled water is still not drinkable, but can be used for landscaping, Carpenter said. With a $65 million dollar upgrade in the city of SLO, the plant can add a fourth step to its process to purify water to a point where it has low enough level of nitrates. Then, it can be put back into the groundwater basin, Carpenter said.
San Luis Obispo County cannot control droughts, but it can control its current inventory locally, Carpenter said. San Luis Obispo county water is regulated by the San Luis Obispo Flood Control and Water Conservation District. The city of SLO recives its water from three main sources: Santa Margarita Lake, also known as Salinas Reservoir, as well as Nacimiento Reservoir and Whale Rock Reservoir near Cayucos, Carpenter said. To add to San Luis Obispo’s water inventory, San Luis Obispo City Council recently acquired 2,200 more acre feet of water from Lake Nacimiento, Carpenter said. Acre feet is the volume needed to cover one acre with a foot of water.
Thinking ahead and creating more reservoirs and dams to collect future surface water is critical to staying ahead on water conservation, Carpenter said.
“We have not built a dam in this county since the Lopez Dam in 1969. That’s 47 years. We should be building water storage now for the next time it rains,” Carpenter said. “When it’s a real wet year, nobody thinks about building more dams, and then in a real dry year, it’s ‘we can’t build a dam because there’s no water to fill it.’ ”
Raising the height of existing dams as well as looking for new water storage is essential to adding to the county’s water supply, Carpenter said. When Santa Margarita Lake was acquired by the county in 1947, it was established that the county could add a 19-foot gate atop the dam to raise the lake by 19 feet, Carpenter said. This addition would require a full environmental review before being built. Reviews would also be required for new dams and reservoirs. Carpenter does not know the costs to acquire land or build new dams and reservoirs, but the county can acquire state grants to pay for additional storage where it is most needed in the south and north parts of the county, he said.
The county also has to resolve the flow of traffic just as the flow of water, Carpenter said. The county is responsible for accommodating all vehicle traffic and maintaining roads within the county.
During peak times of early morning and evening, Highway 101 between Avila Beach and Grover Beach and Highway 227 from Tank Farm Road to Price Canyon Road are the most congested, Carpenter said.
County roads are also congested, Carpenter said. Traffic on Buckley Road near the airport could increase if the city approves several subdivision of about 3,000 homes there.
“Buckley Road is still a two-lane road. Tank Farm road is a two-lane road. Prado Road doesn’t go through to all the sports fields down there, so we have these three two lane roads and we’re building 3,000 homes out in an area that’s already impacted by traffic. The traffic is just going to get more and more congested,” Carpenter said.
Since creating new roads is not an option, widening two-lane roads to four lanes is the answer to alleviate traffic congestion, Carpenter said. Land for widening lanes can come from private property owners or be bought by the county. Carpenter does not know the specific costs, but widening lanes can cost millions of dollars from the start of land acquisition to the end of construction, he said.
A controversial proposal that requires an impartial view on his part is the Phillips 66 oil-by-rail proposal, Carpenter said. Phillips 66 seeks to build a rail spur to transport crude oil to the Nipomo Mesa refinery by train.
The proposal was initially rejected by the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission, which then gave Phillips 66 10 days to appeal the decision, Carpenter said. Last Wednesday, October 19, Phillips 66 appealed the decision to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, who will now vote to either repeal or reject the decision, according to Cal Coast News.
If Carpenter wins the District 3 Board of Supervisors seat, he will reserve judgment in the appeal hearing for Phillips 66, he said.
“You have to consider both sides without prejudice. I want to be open-minded, listen to both sides and then make a decision,” Carpenter said.
If the appeal is approved, the oil traveling by train through the county will present a great hazard to county residents, Carpenter said.
“We have so many of our residents who live right up next to the train tracks, like students,” Carpenter said. “So it is a healthy and safety issue.”
Both candidates see problems with the closure Diablo Canyon. Since PG&E decided not to renew its operating licenses, the plant will decommission and shut down in nine years, Carpenter said.
Diablo Canyon contributes $1 billion dollars to the local economy annually, as well as providing more than 1,500 head-of-household jobs with annual salaries well over $100,000 dollars, Carpenter said. The loss of slightly more than $1 million dollar property tax revenue will have a significant impact on the housing market as well as the school districts and nonprofits that depend on its donations, Carpenter said.
As the 1,500 workers and their families start to leave, there will be more houses than there is a demand, causing the housing market out there to go down, Carpenter said. Diablo Canyon pays about $50 million dollars a year in property taxes, Carpenter said. About $20 million dollars goes directly to the county, while the San Luis Coastal School District receives $10 to $12 million dollars a year.
The closure of Diablo Canyon will only affect 1 percent of the county’s budget, but it cuts 13 percent of the school district budget, Carpenter said.
“That’s a huge cut when you’re a school district already operating at full capacity with little extra in the budget.”
“I think it’s just going to be a devastating effect. I think we’re going to have a new normal, where we’re going to have to accept the fact that that’s not going to be a part of our economy and everybody’s going to have to adjust. I think having the nine years helps us transition a little better, but I don’t think that we’re going to be able to replace the jobs in nine years. I think it’ll just get us used to living without it,” Carpenter said.
Addressing these issues and encouraging public comment is what propels Carpenter through his campaign, he said.
Carpenter believes his level of civility and respectful manner toward people makes him the right candidate to replace his opponent, he said.
“I think this campaign has been much about character, civility, and behavior. We both acknowledge that each other is probably not doing the best job we can in that area. When it comes down to the other issues, I don’t think we differ that much on what we would be voting. I think it comes down to behavior. That’s all.”