San Luis Obispo County supervisor candidate Ellen Beraud went on the offensive in a Jan. 22 election forum with incumbent Supervisor Debbie Arnold, bluntly calling Arnold's tenure in office a "failure of leadership," marked by "inaction" and "missed opportunities."
The former Atascadero mayor is looking to unseat Arnold, a two-term incumbent, in the 2020 primary election race for 5th District supervisor. District 5 encompasses Atascadero, Creston, Santa Margarita, Garden Farms, and Pozo, and portions of Templeton, Cal Poly, and SLO.
- Photo By Jayson Mellom
- DEBATING Ellen Beraud (right) talks during an election forum against Debbie Arnold, SLO County's 5th District supervisor.
The two candidates clashed throughout the forum hosted by New Times, offering opposing views on county issues ranging from cannabis policy to community choice energy.
Arnold, a Pozo rancher and former preschool owner, touted her work to oppose tax and fee increases, address homelessness, make road maintenance a budget priority, and manage groundwater.
Beraud, an Atascadero State Hospital employee, promised voters more inclusive leadership. She sharply criticized Arnold's policy record and highlighted her own progressive views on the environment, housing, and cannabis.
On affordable housing, Arnold voiced her opposition to "inclusionary fees" that are charged to market home builders to fund low-income housing. Arnold argued that deed-restricted affordable housing prevents homes from appreciating in value over time.
"I prefer trying to just zone for and create housing, lessen the fees, [and] provide opportunity for developers to build by-design houses that are affordable to get into," Arnold said.
Beraud, in contrast, said that "we can't build our way out of" unaffordable housing. She expressed support for new revenue measures that could enable the county to support more affordable homes.
The candidates also clashed on cannabis, with Arnold supporting more land-use restrictions on the cannabis industry and Beraud slamming Arnold for turning away economic opportunities.
"I'm the pro-business candidate here," Beraud said.
Arnold, responding to that criticism, called out Beraud for taking a $10,000 campaign donation from a company with ties to local cannabis grower Brett Vapnek, whose firm is facing a civil lawsuit from the state for allegedly operating a processing facility in Nipomo without a license.
On groundwater management and community choice energy, the candidates also clashed. While Arnold said she was "excited and proud" of a recently finished Paso Robles Groundwater Basin sustainability plan, Beraud thought the plan "had a high chance of rejection" from the state.
Arnold reiterated her stance against joining Monterey Bay Community Power, a community choice energy agency that several Central Coast jurisdictions have recently joined, questioning its long term "dependability." Beraud said she supported the venture.
"I think it was a missed opportunity," Beraud said of the county's stance. "What's to love about PG&E? We have zero voice with PG&E." Δ