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Arroyo Grande: United or divided?

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If you were hoping that the Nov. 8 election would provide an answer to whether the recent tension and division between the Arroyo Grande mayor and some members of the City Council would be resolved, you’re going to be disappointed.

Because that answer is “it depends.” 

That’s as much reassurance as Arroyo Grande residents will get post election. Incumbent Mayor Jim Hill received 59.6 percent of the vote according to unofficial voting totals, beating challenger Richard Waller. Incumbent Kristen Barneich also held on to her seat with 26.5 percent of the vote. The lone “newcomer” to the council is Caren Ray, who previously served on the Arroyo Grande City Council from 2010 to 2013 before she was appointed the SLO County Board of Supervisors.

The lead-up to the election saw the board split on several issues, most recently Hill’s call for a building moratorium in the face of the state’s severe drought.

Barneich acknowledged that the last few years had been difficult for the council, but said she hopes that will change moving forward.

“The voters have spoken, and I hope that everyone can come to the table with a positive attitude and work for the betterment of Arroyo Grande,” she said. “I definitely think we can get back to a good place.”

Speaking to New Times on Nov. 9, Ray indicated that she would try to work to bring the council together to solve some the difficult challenges that face the city.

“That is one of the No. 1 things I want to get done is return to that consensus building,” Ray said. “That’s something that I have always strived for and been able to do on the other boards I’ve sat on. But ultimately I cannot make anybody do anything.” 

Hill said he also hoped the council could move past the divisiveness on some issues, but offered a similar caveat in a post-election interview with New Times. 

“I hope we will see the council united to work for the best interest of the city,” he said. “But it will be up to council members to make sure they are acting in the best interest of the city.”

By all accounts, the building moratorium, which Hill made a prominent part of his campaign platform, will still be a sticking point for the council. Hill said he believed his re-election was an indication that voters favored a moratorium.

“I think the voters spoke very loudly and consistently and with a unified voice, so I think it’s incumbent on the council to look into a responsible building moratorium and do it quickly,” he said.

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