Published in the SLO Tribune on Friday, May 13, 2022.
By the Tribune Editorial Board
Dawn Ortiz-Legg calls herself a "moderate, middle-of-the-road" person - an accurate description, especially when you consider that local progressives have sometimes gritted their teeth over her decisions.
She generally votes with Supervisor Bruce Gibson, a fellow Democrat.
But Ortiz-Legg can surprise you.
Shortly after she was appointed to the District 3 seat in November 2020, she voted against forming a citizens advisory committee that would have offered recommendations on redistricting, though she now strongly supports turning the task of re-districting over to an independent citizens commission.
She partnered with Republican Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham on an op-ed in support of keeping the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant open past 2025, months before Gov. Gavin Newsom changed his mind about Diablo.
And she ultimately voted with the board majority to drop an affordable housing fee, though she did try to persuade the board majority to delay doing so until replacement funding is identified.
While we don't always agree with her decisions, we appreciate Ortiz-Legg's ability to see all sides of an issue and whenever possible, to find a middle ground.
In a county split apart by political differences, she is a welcome reminder of what it means to be bipartisan.
Another plus: Ortiz-Legg is always polite, but she's no pushover; she stands firm when she needs to.
In one of her finer moments, she clapped back at a fellow supervisor who tried to pin the blame on county employees when something didn't proceed according to plan.
"The one thing I will not put up with is to have our staff denigrated, demoralized and disparaged," she responded.
CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCATE
Ortiz-Legg has spent much of her career focused on energy; she formerly worked in the solar industry and, most recently, for PG&E.
She is a strong advocate for clean energy, including offshore wind.
Her priorities also include finding solutions to homelessness and developing more affordable housing - she's currently working with the Home Builders Association on finding solutions.
Unfortunately, given the current makeup of the board, the two more liberal members - Ortiz-Legg and Gibson - have a tough time getting any of their initiatives approved.
If the balance of power on the board does shift, we look to Ortiz-Legg to take a leadership role in finally moving the needle on housing and homelessness.
If it doesn't, we urge that she continue to push for action.
For example, it's time to put a measure on the ballot to raise funds for affordable housing, which is something the board has discussed but has never acted on.
HOW HER OPPONENTS STACK UP
Ortiz-Legg, who was appointed to the board to replace the late Adam Hill,
is facing two opponents: insurance agent Stacy Korsgaden and retiree Arnold Ruiz. The term is just two years - the amount of time left on Hill's term - and the "old" District 3 boundaries will be used, rather than the newly redrawn boundaries.
Ortiz-Legg is far and away the best candidate in her race - and the only candidate with actual political experience.
Ruiz is running primarily to get his personal beliefs across. Aside from his appearances at forums, he is not really waging a campaign.
Republican candidate Stacy Korsgaden ran against Adam Hill two years ago and came close to beating him.
She declined to participate in the Editorial Board interview process, but we have the same concerns we shared two years ago.
She has no political experience and based on her campaign statements and forum appearances, she continues to hold far-right views that are out of sync with the constituents of District 3 and with the majority of SLO County residents.
Her attendance at the Jan. 6, 2021, pro-Trump "Save America" rally in Washington, D.C. (she did not go inside the Capitol building and has condemned the violence there) coupled with her reluctance to acknowledge that President Joe Biden was legitimately elected are prime examples.
And do we really need another ultra-conservative member on the Board of Supervisors? After all, they've been in power for the past eight years and we've seen an exacerbation of problems. Homelessness is worse, housing is more expensive, groundwater basins are still threatened and our communities are more politically divided than ever before.
Ortiz-Legg's value on the Board of Supervisors cannot be overstated. She listens, she tries to reach consensus and she's an independent thinker and decision-maker. She is exactly what this often-times dysfunctional board needs.
And this isn't a new role for her. Back in 2017, before Hill's death opened up a seat on the board, she wrote this in a Tribune viewpoint in response to a conservative columnist:
"I believe it's healthy to challenge the status quo. But dialogue, bipartisan-ship and compromise seem to be dirty words in both extremist camps. They appear to prefer battles and destruction over constructive collaboration.
"I am reasonably sure there's a large population of what I call 'orphan voters' out there right now: voters with no place to call home."
We urge all District 3 voters, orphan or not, to vote for Dawn Ortiz-Legg for District 3 supervisor.