Correction: It was incorrectly stated that Debbie Arnold is a Cal Poly graduate. She attended Cal Poly in 1973 but later graduated from Cuesta College instead with an A.A. in childhood education.
The candidates for the supervisor of San Luis Obispo County’s fifth district debated in the University Union Wednesday afternoon in advance of the June 3 election.
Incumbent Jim Patterson and Debbie Arnold were able to share their views about the role of county supervisor on issues such as housing affordability, health care, business and job opportunities in front of more than 20 Cal Poly students and staff.
The event was hosted by Soup and Substance and kicked off with both candidates giving a brief introduction of their platforms.
Patterson graduated from Cal Poly with a natural resources management degree and has focused on “smart growth” principles in his first term as supervisor while citing his “starts with me” philosophy.
Patterson lives in a passive solar residence south of Atascadero while using the bus and a bike to commute to and around San Luis Obispo.
Also a former student at Cal Poly, Arnold has worked with state and federal level governments through her experience on the staff of local assemblyman Sam Blakeslee for the past three years. She also works the family ranch in the Pozo Valley, and owned and operated Small Wonders preschool for 17 years.
She believes her experience in government and as a local businesswoman will be invaluable in working with state and local legislators to ease the burden of $18 million county deficit for citizens and businesses alike.
Both agreed that the main responsibility of a county supervisor is to make sure the citizens in unincorporated areas of the county receive social, health and public services. The candidates also emphasized how important Cal Poly and its students are to the community.
“The supervisor position is a vehicle for communicating student and community issues. As long as we maintain communication and cooperation, we can continue to use our resources to encourage investment from outside sources to create more job and internship opportunities in the area,” Patterson said.
“I think everyone understands what an asset this unique university is to the community and its pertinence in attracting companies and jobs,” Arnold said.
The debate then moved forward into an audience-generated question and answer period. Sustainability and job opportunities were the topics that the audience focused on.
Patterson wants to continue to support the county’s two strongest industries – agriculture and tourism – by increasing the amount of local career opportunities through facilitating relationships between Cal Poly and businesses.
“However, it’s important we protect the natural environment by advocating sustainable growth. We need to direct growth so we can allow for it without harming what we love so much about the Central Coast: the environment,” Patterson said.
Arnold related her personal knowledge of agriculture and the difficulty some farmers and ranchers face because of mandates and regulations. She called for a more accommodating attitude toward local businesses that would use practical solutions to allow private businesses to flourish.
Concerns over health services and affordable housing were also brought up with both candidates promising to work for change but warning that the issues were matters of federal and state policy.
Both candidates offered their opinions on the imminent domain proposition that will share the ballot with them on June 3.
Patterson said he supports Proposition 99 because the language in Proposition 98 will make it difficult to implement. Arnold supports Proposition 98 because it includes all private residences, not just residential.
The Fifth District includes Atascadero, Santa Margarita, Garden Farms, Creston, Carrisa Plains and part of San Luis Obispo, including the Cal Poly and Cuesta College campuses.
Soup and Substance is put on by the Community CENTER that brings in guest speakers to inform students about controversial or lesser-known subject matter.