Aim for the stars, fall to the earth



San Luis Obispo County voters went to the polls in sparse numbers for the June 6 gubernatorial primary—but they kept their wallets soundly secured.

In a strong showing of fiscal conservatism, locals rejected Measure G—an item comprising $310 million in bonds for Cuesta College—and lent support to the statewide defeat of Propositions 81 and 82. The former would have taken out $600 million in bonds to pay for library renovations across the state, while the latter proposed subsidized pre-school for all California 4-year-olds.

The Citizen’s Awareness Project (CAP), a small taxpayer’s alliance that formed in the debate over Measure G, described the outcome as an unfortunate victory.

“When we started looking into it, we noticed the lack of a real plan,� CAP de-facto leader Dean Gilligan said.

Gilligan went on to express relief that the measure failed, but stated his disappointment with the administration’s overzealous ambitions.

“It’s really hard to campaign against something generally good, but it wasn’t the solution,� he added.

Down Chorro Valley, a more literal disappointment pervades the recently defeated Cuesta administration. Of the $310 million, staff had specifically earmarked $45 million for repairs of the 40-year-old San Luis Obispo campus, including a retrofit of the now-closed Blakeslee Auditorium.

“We still have all the same needs,� Cuesta Executive Director of Institutional Advancement June Stephens said. “We still show desperate need for renovation of our science labs. I think we’ll have to sit down and look at the results to see why voters rejected the measure.�

According to college administrators, an undisclosed sum would also have gone toward technology upgrades for the flagship installation. Cuesta intended for the balance of the bond request to go toward expansion of the North County campus in Paso Robles and to smaller centers in Nipomo and Arroyo Grande. Some opponents of the measure called the packaging of needed renovations with expansion an unfair flounce by college administrators.

“I went to a public presentation in Arroyo Grande,� explained south county voter Al Brill. “I know what BS sounds like, and so did a few other people there. The more questions we asked, the more defensive they became.�

Brill was supportive in considering something more in line with the Allan Hancock College bond measure approved by Santa Barbara County voters. If Cuesta tried tactics similar to those used by Santa Maria’s community college, he said, he’d “be the first in line.�

Stephens responded to the criticism by emphasizing the community’s palpable demand for a more expansive junior-college system.

“People against Measure G argue that we were asking for too much,� she said. “But they don’t know our needs.�

Two more specified funding referendums also fell short in the north county. Cambria showed up in support of a proposal by the city to provide 24-hour ambulance service, but the item fell short in its bid for two-thirds of the vote needed to pass. Meanwhile, the Niblick Road trailer park down Bearcat alley will remain a fixture of Paso Robles High School in light of the district’s latest defeat at the polls. Fifty-three percent of voters said “yes� to the renovations—a tantalizing percentage point lower than the threshold.

“The problem is just going to get more expensive,� Paso Robles superintendent Patrick Sayne said.

He estimates that the high school’s enrollment could escalate to 3,000 if the community approves certain development proposals on the docket. The school was designed for 1,200 students and now houses 2,200—many of which attend class in manufactured units aligned in the back west area of campus.

It was the fifth failed measure introduced by the school district since 1998.

CAP’s Gilligan agreed with the notion that the referendum might have suffered from sharing ballot space with the hotly-contested Measure G. In that regard, Sayne declined to speculate.

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