Q&A with 1st District Supervisorial candidate Stephanie Shakofsky
Editor’s note: San Luis Obispo County will be electing a 1st District Supervisor on March 3, 2020. The county clerk-recorder has sent mail-in ballots to voters and it is time to decide. In this election, voters will choose between incumbent John Peschong and local vineyard owner Stephanie Shakofsky. We asked both candidates the same questions and are publishing both of their responses today. We asked the candidates to keep their answers to under 200 words.
Questions and answers with Stephanie Shakofsky
What will you accomplish for the community in your first year in office?
I will use my first year in office to immediately pass my good government reform package that is designed to make our County government more open, transparent, and effective. For too long, our Board of Supervisors have been influenced by big-moneyed interests, making closed-door deals on water and industrial cannabis. In the next year the County will be implementing our state-mandated groundwater plan. As your Supervisor, I will bring my expertise as a hydrologist and water expert to the table. My open government reforms will make sure that we implement a fair and intelligent water plan that addresses our community’s water needs through a full and transparent stakeholder process that is not influenced by big-money.
The cost of housing is rising and the availability of affordable housing is shrinking. What solutions can you bring to solve the problem?
Our housing availability and affordable problem is a statewide crisis. First and foremost, our Board of Supervisors needs to make certain that our County receives its fair share of state and federal funds already designated (and paid for through our tax dollars) for housing. Further, our County government can do more to alleviate the problem:
1. Encourage Mixed-Income Housing. The county should support more mixed-income housing projects where the private market-rate units can subsidize affordable units. Mixed-income communities are developments that comprise differing levels of affordability, with some units at market rate and others available to low-income or workforce households at below-market rates.
2. Cuesta College Student Housing. Cuesta College is unique among the community colleges because a significant number of students come from outside the County. There is no student housing on either campus. Building student housing will free up the affordable units that the Cuesta students currently occupy and support students who struggle with housing. There is a growing homeless issue with Cuesta students with many sleeping in their cars on campus parking lots. Cuesta College North counted 70 homeless students this semester.
3. One-Stop Shop. Sacramento’s funding for affordable housing is a complicated mix of 8 different funding sources spread out through 5 different government agencies. Creating a one-stop shop for housing funds (like what the state of Minnesota has established) will save money, time and resources for the development community. Because of our affordability crisis and housing emergency, the time is right for a local government movement to push the legislature and the governor to consolidate the state’s housing programs. This can be accomplished in partnership with the League of Cities and the California State Association of Counties, and, if implemented, would easily save millions of dollars and fast track a lot of affordable housing in the County.
What is your opinion on the growing cannabis industry in the county?
While I support the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana for adult and medical use, I do not support the placement of large cannabis or hemp operations next to family homes and existing neighborhoods. The Board of Supervisors passed the current cannabis ordinance (which allows industrial cannabis manufacturing and grow facilities to be built within 300 feet of a family home) without any community outreach. This is the type of closed-door deal that will stop if you elect me as your Supervisor. The County could have benefited by a full community planning process and by looking at what other states have already done to minimize landuse conflict. For example, the City of Denver allows cannabis manufacturing only in commercially zoned areas near airports and railroad corridors—and away from family homes. This is the type of intelligent landuse planning I will bring to the Board of Supervisors.
What are your solutions for dealing with the over-draft of the Paso Robles groundwater basin and maintaining North County’s thriving wine industry?
In the next year the County will be implementing our state-mandated groundwater plan. As your Supervisor, I will bring my expertise as a hydrologist and water expert to the table. My open government reforms will make sure we implement a fair and intelligent water plan that addresses our community’s water needs through a full and open stakeholder process and not influenced by big-money. It is clear that we have been taking more water out of groundwater basin than mother nature has been putting back in. As a community, we need to bring our groundwater usage back into balance. I believe we can obtain that balance through new and innovative conservation efforts and water-recycling programs using the most up-to-date technologies. It’s extremely important to our local economy that we approach our groundwater issues with the best science and available technology—and not allow lobbyists and big-money to influence our community water plan.
What are your solutions for addressing the homeless issue in the county?
The County has an unspoken policy that says it’s okay for people to live outdoors and on the streets. As your Supervisor, I would make clear public policy that says as a matter of right, people should be living under a roof with access to necessary support services. I support the new shelter the City of Paso Robles is developing in partnership with the nonprofit group ECHO. This is a positive step forward, but the County needs to do more to support families who sit on the edge of economic homelessness by creating more affordable housing units close to town and designing more efficient housing support services for individuals who are susceptible to becoming homeless because of job loss or health issues and the high cost of housing in the County.
What are other issues do you think are the most important to address in the county?
Our roads and infrastructure, the backbone of our community, need continuous maintenance and upgrading. As your Supervisor, I will make sure that our County gets its fair share of state and federal transportation and infrastructure dollars. As your Supervisor, I will not sit idly by as Sacramento appropriates our gas tax dollars to pet projects in the big cities.
Please tell our readers about your experience and background and how it will benefit district residents.
I am a local farmer with a degree in hydrology, and owner of a small vineyard in Paso Robles. My career as a water scientist began at the US Geological Survey, where I researched how nuclear contamination moves through soil and groundwater, and I’m a recognized expert in the reuse of contaminated property. I have served on numerous commissions, helping communities and affordable housing developers cleanup contaminated properties.
I am running to represent you because I believe that government operates best when it operates in the open. Our Supervisors have been making backroom deals on water and big cannabis—putting our neighborhoods and local economy in peril. As your Supervisor, I will stop the closed-door deals, and establish a program of full public participation and collaboration. I hope you will consider giving me your vote because so much is at stake. I will honor your trust by supporting policies that are transparent, responsive to community needs, and fiscally prudent. Please read my full bio and learn more about my good government reforms at www.StephanieForSupervisor.com.
–Learn more about Stephanie Shakofsky on her website