“The beatings will continue until morale improves.”
—WWII Japanese Submarine Force Commander
New-term Board of Supervisors Chairman Adam Hill, a former Cal Poly English professor, is one of those teachers who teaches scared.
He’s so afraid of not being able to hold the class’s attention through his teaching ability, so frightened the class will fall into chaos from the brain-squeezing drone of his lifeless voice, that he practically has to keep a sheriff in the back of the classroom to protect himself from his own shadow.
Chairman Hill brought that same rigid mindset with him to work on his first day presiding as Chairman of the five-man San Luis County Board of Supervisors. Just prior to public comment on January 4, marking his climb to King of the Hill, he made a statement calling for civility, obviously referring to Los Osos commenters who speak their minds to the eye-rolls of the board:
“Some of the things that we’ve seen in some public comments… personal attacks, threats, slanderous rants, yelling from the audience – I’m not going to tolerate that kind of boorish behavior. You will be asked to leave if you display it,” he said.
“I believe it’s our duty to help bring about better public values and I think that civility and reasonableness are among them,” he continued. “We can disagree about a lot of things but we will do so civilly and reasonably or you will be asked to leave. I wanted to make that clear.”
This is how Hill ushered in his new era in civil discourse and civility by the public, as he defines it—or else. With a real sheriff’s deputy standing in the back of the room to enforce the “you will be asked to leave” part. Perhaps he was afraid when he turned the screws even tighter than Gibson did on the Los Osos people, they would revolt and burn down the plantation.
After all, Hill saw firsthand what happened to Supervisor Gibson when he attacked the community with his boorish behavior – when Los Osos speakers fighting for their homes grew weary of his bullying and broken promises and let him know. Hill, the terrified English teacher, was determined not to allow any outbreaks of democracy on his watch. The sheriff’s deputy holding up the back wall didn’t seem nearly as scared as Chairman Hill.
It didn’t take long at all, minutes in fact, for Professor Hill, now first-day Board Chairman Hill, to turn into Judge Roy Bean Hill, holding court and administering frontier justice like he’s been doing it his whole life.
During public comment on Hill’s first day as chairman, Los Osos speaker Ben DiFatta slapped Hill with a “F” grade on his personal report card for voting “yes” on every single vote funding the County’s $200 million wastewater project for Los Osos.
Obviously receiving an “F” didn’t sit well with the dour-faced professor. Because a few speakers later an angry Hill interrupted public comment to single out and scold Los Osos speaker Piper Riley following her comments, and correct what he incorrectly thought she was saying. He prefaced his remarks by telling her:
“Since you brought up the misinformation (provided by the County), I thought it was important since you seem to be trafficking in misinformation, most of your comments, (to correct you)…” He then proceeded not to correct her, but rather argue with her to inject his one-sided, bleeding-County opinions into public comment.
Because Hill, his fear hormones filling the board chamber like spiked perfume, had apparently decided to pick up the cudgel where Gibson left off in their weekly whipping of homeowners, the following week, at the January 11 Board of Supervisors meeting, even more Los Osos speakers showed up to publicly reflect on his uncivil cry for civility and give him a free lesson or two in the Brown Act.
“This legislative body cannot prohibit public criticism of policy, procedure, programs or services that the County agencies provide to the public,” Los Osos resident Gewynn Taylor educated teacher Hill on the Brown Act from the podium. “If a member of the public uses wording the chair does not approve of, he does not have the right to determine if the wording is slander, profane or confrontational.
“Perhaps this chair should attend an anger management class—if the people from Los Osos that take off time from their jobs to try and get justice so that they can afford to keep their homes—anger him or upset him,” Taylor recommended, observing his unprovoked belligerency.
“Thanks for the helpful suggestion,” Hill groused after her.
Supervisor Gibson, Hill’s expert mentor on abusing Los Osos residents, supported his pupil with one of his warped, revisionist history lessons, especially on “equitable access to this board’s time and the efficiency of our meetings.
“And I would observe,” moaned Gibson, rolling out his old act, “that we’ve spent almost 30 minutes listening to familiar individuals’ comments discuss things as they have many times before and they received responses to all of the issues that have been brought before us…”
If Gibson had responded to all of the issues, then what were all those people doing there? It didn’t add up. Something was very wrong. Apparently, Los Osos residents were there because they believed, and continue to believe, that one long “No” to everything the community needs to survive is not a response.
“We have had this discussion with County Counsel,” said Gibson about his aim to foist his “reasonable set of standards” on the public for public comment. “Certainly this board is here to hear the public’s reaction in terms of criticism, but speech within these chambers is not unlimited; there are clear limits on things like obscenity, and limits on the subject matter that this board takes up… (including) reasonable time limits for discussion on any particular item that this board can impose, as long as they’re reasonable.
Of course, it is County Counsel Jensen alone who determines what is “reasonable.”
Added Hill, who is no defender of Los Osos property rights, only of those in his district, “We do hear quite often from other people who feel – and that’s part of my desire to create some amount of civility and courtesy—they feel intimidated by coming in the midst of rather bitter and ugly comments, and also to have hearings delayed when people come from different parts of the County, that take off work, that change their schedules only to find themselves having to be pushed back on the agenda.”
Exactly. Just like Los Osos residents have to do, too, week in and week out, many of them soon to lose their homes because of teacher Hill’s tunnel vision and his hypnotic response to the call of his master’s voice. The vast majority of Hill’s and Gibson’s definition of civil public comment did not apply at all to Los Osos commenters and simply took up so-called precious time.
That 30 minutes of comments from Los Osos residents on January 11 is minuscule compared to 4,000 homeowners having to pay $200 to $300 a month for a megasewer that is the most expensive and most dangerous to human health, the environment and dwindling water supply. Those 30 minutes on the plight of Los Osos homeowners is a drop in the bucket of wasted county time, and it’s paid for in advance by Los Osos residents, those who will actually pay for the sewer… 30 minutes for almost 5,000 homeowners, many in jeopardy of losing their homes: That’s a nanosecond per homeowner… overwhelming equally pressing business of the overpaid Board of Supervisors.
That’s why Hill is so scared: What if they all those homeowners come down to the Board of Supervisors meeting, thousands of them, all at once, not just a handful? Teacher Hill is mortified that those savvy Los Osos “students”—not the twentysomething kids that had to kiss his ass for grades, but real adults smarter than he is—will find out he doesn’t know jack about zilch, can’t teach and can’t lead. And won’t kiss his ass like the kids had to do. What then? Chaos?
They might also find out he’s never read the First Amendment and the Constitution all the way through once, or doesn’t quite remember what they say, and thinks the Brown Act means County staff sticking their sole-source noses where the sun don’t shine if it pleases the Board. Then after that they’ll find out just how scared this vocabulary-deprived English teacher is of real people, of reality, and things he can’t control with his acquired abilities. And that you can’t teach a teacher anything he thinks he already knows, which is everything when he knows nothing. What then? Revolution?
It’s been said that teachers teach because they can’t “do,” and never has that been more evident than in the sad case of teacher Hill, now a supervisor, who can’t “do.” What is the lesson Hill’s chairmanship teaches the people of Los Osos about trusting their government? That if you don’t do your homework, you too can be elected to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.
— Ed Ochs