The March Primary Election is Tuesday, March 3, and this election season, two candidates are vying for the District 1 supervisor seat in San Luis Obispo County.
The district makes up around 650,000 acres of land, covering the inland, northern-most areas of the county.
Supervisor John Peschong currently holds the seat. He was elected in 2016.
In this election, he's facing Paso Robles resident and Democrat Stephanie Shakofsky.
Peschong says he wants to serve one more term, and if elected, he wants to continue his work on the Paso Robles Water Basin, which remains a prominent issue in his district.
"We did write a plan which was successful because it was submitted to the Department of Water Resources in January. It's now out for public comment and I think it's going to do what it needs to do to be able to balance the basin," Peschong said. "The hope is that everyone has water under their property that they can utilize for their beneficial purposes."
A hydrologist by trade, Stephanie Shakofsky says it's also an issue she's ready to tackle head-on if elected.
"We have a groundwater basin that is in deficit, meaning we are taking more water out of the basin than Mother Nature is putting in on an annual basis," Shakofsky said. "I am a hydrologist by training, I am a water expert. We have issues with our groundwater and our water use that need to be solved with a full stakeholder approach and community involvement."
As plans for a homeless shelter continue for Paso Robles, Shakofsky wants to expand beyond that. She says there are two categories of homeless: the economic homeless and the chronic homeless. She defines the former as individuals who have mental health and substance abuse issues.
"The chronic homeless still need a place where they can come and be safe, but they also need a lot of wraparound services," Shakofsky said. "I would be supportive of using county land for homeless shelters for chronic homeless who need support services for detox and getting off drugs. "
Peschong says homelessness is the number one issue in his district and one he wants to mitigate and see through if elected to another term.
"We did get some homeless emergency program money from the state. That money is going to be coming to the city of Paso Robles. They're going to be working with the ECHO homeless shelter to build the first-step shelter to hopefully get people out of there and get into detox, get into rehab and become productive members of society again," Peschong said.
Cannabis remains a hot topic, and Peschong says the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors is regulating it.
"What we did as a board of supervisors is that the companies that want to grow, the family farms that want to continue to grow, they cannot grow it on anything but agricultural property or rural lands, so we'll stay out of residential neighborhoods," Peschong said.
However, Shakofsky says that's not good enough and wants the county to re-write the ordinance to create industrial areas for cannabis grows.
"If I'm elected, I'm happy to sit down with the cannabis industry and figure out a path forward that gives them clarity and certainty but adds protection to existing neighborhoods and family homes," Shakofsky said.
Peschong says in his term he's been able to move forward on plans for the development of affordable and workforce housing.
"My goal is to remove some of the barriers in the county to those developers so they can build homes that people can buy and young families can buy and live in our community," Peschong said.
However, Shakofsky says a more aggressive approach could be taken.
"There are things the county can do to increase the number of affordable housing and I think they've been really lax on that and not aggressively pursuing the state and federal funds for the construction of affordable housing, and that would change if I was on the board," Shakofsky said.
Shakofsky says her reforms lie on the foundation of full stakeholder outreach. Among her other initiatives, Shakofsky wants agendas available to the public ten days before board meetings. She says the current 72-hour period doesn't allow residents enough time to fully grasp the agenda items that might affect their communities.
"That is not enough time for a citizen, a normal citizen who has a 9-5 job, who's concerned about what the county is proposing to actually dig in and understand and review those staff reports and to be able to comment intelligently," Shakofsky said.
The Paso Robles resident also plans to lower citizen fees in order to level the playing field when filing appeals. Plus, she wants more transparency when it comes to lobbyists and would require them to register to vote so that residents know who is lobbying supervisors. She's also hoping to change how board members recuse themselves during meetings.
"If you have to recuse yourself from a vote at the board of supervisors because of a financial conflict, you must publicly state in clear English why you are recusing yourself from the vote and then you have to leave," Shakofsky said.
During his first term, Peschong says he wanted to bring additional sheriff's deputies to the first district, focusing on some of the inland communities.
"I was successful the first year to get additional funding for sheriff's deputies in mostly the two cities in the two towns I represent, which are Shandon and also San Miguel," Peschong said.
Peschong says affordability is an initiative he continues to stand behind as he runs for his second term in office.
"Figuring out how we can create those head of household jobs so people can stay here," Peschong said. "People graduate from Cal Poly, young families, they want to stay in this beautiful community we all live in and they don't have the head of household jobs."
Peschong says he's running for a second term to finish what he started, especially when it comes to to community issues with the Paso Robles Water Basin and the homeless.
"I want to be able to really get the water program, the water plan we've put together working with the Department of Water Resources and the county and the city and the water districts to be able to get them focused on it and get that solved," Peschong said. "I also think we need that time to deal with the homeless crisis in our community."