John Peschong’s election story
October 26, 2016
Special to CCN by William Peischel
The closure of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, gang-related activity, homelessness and the drought are among the largest issues in the race for supervisor in the San Luis Obispo County Board of District 1 election. Two candidates are vying for the position. John Peschong, a Republican, is from Templeton, and works as a partner in the political consultation firm Meridian Pacific. Steve Martin is a Democrat from Paso Robles. He is currently the mayor of Paso Robles.
Gangs operating in the county are Peschong’s number one issue in the race, he says. Gangs are the primary avenue for drugs and gang violence into San Luis Obispo County, he says.
Peschong would invest in measures to keep young people away from gangs and expand law enforcement. Peschong’s stake in the matter is personal; he has firsthand experience with the consequences of opioid use. His nephew was an addict.
“My nephew was a Cuesta College student who got addicted to opiates and addicted to heroin and died. This is an issue that’s very personal for me and my family,” Peschong said.
A boost in the number of sheriff’s deputies is the best method to eradicate drugs and gangs in the county, Peschong said. That means an increase of funding to the sheriff’s department from the county budget.
“I don’t believe that they have gotten their full funding that they have requested, and I would like to see if we can get them their full funding so they can expand the gang taskforce and the narcotics taskforce in the county,” Peschong said.
Preventative measures are an important element of crime prevention, Peschong says. Peschong looks to The Boys and Girls Club in Paso Robles and after school sports clubs as tools to shift attention away from what young people may find attractive about gangs.
As supervisor, Peschong will address the closure of Diablo Canyon Power Plant, the services available to the county homeless community, and county water resources, he said.
Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant will close in 2025. The plant employs about 1,500 people. Most of the jobs are highly specialized and high paying. Peschong plans to create tax incentives attractive to other highly skilled employers that would replace the jobs and keep the families of Diablo Canyon workers in San Luis Obispo County with similar employment, he said.
“I think we need to incentivize companies to come to our county and open up shop and create jobs. We do that not by overtaxing them or charging additional money for fees and regulations,” Peschong said.
While lowering taxes will shrink revenue to the county, Peschong says bringing in a company to employ former Diablo Canyon workers takes a priority.
“I care more about the families that are being displaced right now,” Peschong said.
The county should reach out to companies and businesses it would consider attractive to fill the niche Diablo Canyon fills.
The power plant pays more than $25 million dollars a year in property taxes. PG&E pays about $8 million in property taxes to the county, about $7.2 million of that comes from Diablo Canyon, according to the San Luis Obispo County property tax reports.
The closure of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant isn’t the only issue Peschong will address as supervisor.
Homelessness constitutes a huge issue for the county, he said. According to the Homeless Services Oversight Council of San Luis Obispo, more than 2,000 homeless people live in the county. Peschong says, at least in North County, that between the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo and 40 Prado, there are enough resources to house the flow of homeless for the time being.
Peschong wants to add funds to mental health resources in the county.
The way to address homelessness in the county, among myriad other issues, is to increase the budget for general mental health to parity with physical health, Peschong said. It would go to hire additional mental health professionals as well as locations so they’re out reaching to the community, he said.
The money for the increase in funding would come through the county budget, he said.
Peschong does not know exactly how much money it would take to fill the gap between current funding for mental health in the county and what parity with budgetary funds for physical health.
But Mental Health, which falls under the Behavioral Health section of the county budget, had a total expenditure of $35 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year. Physical Health had a total expenditure of $25 million, according to the San Luis Obispo County Fiscal Year 2015-16 Final Budget.
The drought, in its fifth year, burdens San Luis Obispo County. Peschong has suggestions on how to mitigate the effects on the county.
The first is the installment of a gate on the Salinas Dam; a gate is an apparatus that controls flow in or out of a body of water. He said the gate, which controls the water flow to Santa Margarita Lake, could expand its capacity to hold more water for county consumption.
The Salinas Dam was originally designed to allow Santa Margarita Lake a maximum capacity of 45,000 acre-feet. When the Army Corps of Engineers built the dam in the ‘40s, the lake was given a capacity of about 24,000 acre-feet. Peschong says a gate should be added to the dam to expand its capacity.
“The Army Corps of Engineers, because they built it, would have to come back in and upgrade it with those gates that would allow it to hold more water,” Peschong said.
Santa Margarita Lake had 2,255.7 acre feet as of Oct. 24, or 9.5 percent capacity, according to San Luis Obispo County Water Resources. This year, the lake has not risen above 2,600 acre feet. The last time the lake reached 24,000 acre feet was in April of 2011.
“Droughts are a cycle, they have been going on in North County for hundreds of years,” Peschong said.
Peschong suggests a greater use of irrigation zoning in North County. He says specific spaces could be zoned for irrigation to encourage greater use of dry irrigation in the county outside of those zones. Peschong says dry irrigation on the west side of North County should be embraced.
“This might not be the best place for irrigated farming. The dry farming that the people on the west side do, it’s very marketable. There will be those types of discussions,” Peschong said.
Earlier this year, Peschong spoke out against the establishment of special districts to delegate water usage in the county. The SLO County Board of Supervisor’s proposal last March did not garner the votes needed to create the special districts. The districts would work to create compliance with California’s 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The law requires the development of a strategic plan for counties to utilize their water more sustainably.
The extension of a rail spur at a Phillips 66 oil refinery in Nipomo Mesa has sparked a major debate. Peschong has indicated that he will not vote if the decision ends up in the hands of the Board of Supervisors. In the past, Peschong’s consultation firm, Meridian Pacific, has done business with Phillips 66. He calls the issue a conflict of interest – and says he will have no part in the debate or vote, if it were to happen.
On Oct. 19, Phillips 66 filed an appeal against a vote by the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission, that rejected the Phillips 66 plan. That means the plan’s fate may lie before the County Board of Supervisors while Peschong is in office.