San Luis Obispo County's two candidates for 3rd District supervisor squared off on Jan. 15 in the first of two primary election forums hosted by New Times.
In front of an overflowing audience in the SLO County Government Center, incumbent Adam Hill and challenger Stacy Kordsgaden laid out their differing stances on a range of local issues. They're vying to represent Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, Shell Beach, Avila Beach, Edna Valley, a majority of SLO, and parts of Arroyo Grande on the Board of Supervisors.
- Photo By Jayson Mellom
- FACING OFF Stacy Korsgaden (right) debates incumbent 3rd District Supervisor Adam Hill at a Jan. 15 election forum.
Hill, a former Cal Poly faculty member who's seeking a fourth term as supervisor, touted his work on issues like homelessness and economic development.
"The reason why we have homelessness as a budget priority is because of the work I and others are doing," Hill said.
Korsgaden, a Grover Beach insurance agent and chair of the Boys and Girls Club of South County, took issue with Hill's communication style and promised the community better results on traffic relief and jobs.
"I feel there's been a severe failure of communication with our local community," Korsgaden said. "I felt our local representative was not listening to what were asking for locally."
Hill and Korsgaden—the former a progressive Democrat, the latter a moderate Republican—demonstrated their contrasting political philosophies throughout the forum. The candidates outlined different visions for the role of the county on topics ranging from housing to Oceano Dunes pollution.
Hill said the county should invest more direct resources into affordable housing, which includes continuing "inclusionary" fees on market home builders to support affordable projects. Meanwhile, Korsgaden supported lowering fees on developers to incentivize more home building. While Hill expressed strong overall support for new housing, Korsgaden felt that fixes to local traffic congestion should come first.
"We have to build homes. It comes back to what should we do first?" Korsgaden said. "We're stuck in traffic."
Regarding the ongoing contentious debate over the future of the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, Hill called the park's lack of dust pollution control "one of the disgraces of our local community." He promised to advocate for stronger regulation and oversight.
"There's nothing more important than public health," Hill said.
In contrast, Korsgaden expressed more concern about the economic impact of any potential closure of the state park. She vouched for a better balance between recreation and regulation.
"What about the health of our economy?" Korsgaden said.
The candidates appeared more aligned on positions relating to the Diablo Canyon Power Plant decommission, cannabis policies, and the need for more mental health and drug and alcohol services.
Both stated their support for preserving Diablo's coastal land for a future open space park, though Korsgaden noted that she could also support a proposal that brought in revenue to offset the plant's closure. The candidates generally supported the incoming cannabis industry and agreed that the county should expand its mental health and substance abuse services.
"The truth is we need to put increasingly more resources into this [mental health and substance abuse]. We have a lot to do," Hill said.
The forum's tensest moment came when Korsgaden addressed Hill's temperament and communication style. She held Hill responsible for the acrimonious tone of SLO County politics, adding that her opinion is shared among constituents.
"What I hear is bullying, scare tactics," Korsgaden said. "It's not productive."
Meanwhile, Hill placed blame for the often-divided Board of Supervisors' dysfunction on the three conservative members who hold the majority.
"We need a better board who believes in truth, facts, and evidence," he said. "That's something we've gotten away from." Δ